Tarrant County’s top elected official wants the state to investigate a Fort Worth bar that hosted an all-ages drag show in March.
County Judge Tim O’Hare asked Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar to investigate whether Tulips was operating “as an unlicensed sexually-oriented business.” O’Hare shared the letter he sent to Hegar, dated May 4, on Twitter Wednesday morning.
“Elected officials must take action to protect our children from indecency and sexualization. Their innocence is being stolen,” O’Hare tweeted.
Sexually-oriented businesses are usually places like strip clubs. In the case of Tulips, it is a bar and music venue. Sexually-oriented businesses have to pay the state a $5 fee per customer if the business offers “live nude entertainment or live nude performances and authorize on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages,” according to the state comptroller’s website.
KERA reached out to the owner of Tulips via text message to request an interview but did not hear back by this story’s deadline.
Hegar has initiated investigations into North Texas businesses before for hosting drag performances: Mr. Misster in Dallas and Ebb & Flow in Plano.
The results of those investigations are unclear, as is whether the Comptroller’s Office will take up O’Hare’s request. Spokespeople for the office didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Conservative politicians have taken aim at drag shows, especially ones that welcome children, and they’ve moved to limit drag performances in states around the country. Anti-drag rhetoric often falsely equates drag performers with sex offenders.
GLAAD, a national nonprofit that fights for LGBTQ+ acceptance, reported a sharp uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ protests at drag events last year. The organization identified 166 anti-drag protests and threats at drag events from early 2022 to April 2023.
The March 27 show at Tulips was an all-ages trivia night and drag show that drew conservative condemnation, including from conservative political commentator Sara Gonzales, who tweeted that she tried to enter the show but was denied.
Gonzales, who has more than 315,000 Twitter followers, later retweeted a photo of the show’s host, drag queen Salem Moon, sitting in a chair. Gonzales and other commentators criticized Salem Moon for sitting with her legs open. O’Hare’s letter to the Texas Comptroller’s Office says one of the performers “may have exposed himself to the audience, which contained children.”
That’s completely untrue, Salem Moon told KERA in an Instagram message.
“I just find it so funny that they’re trying to say I ‘exposed myself’ at the show, when in every picture and video of the show, I have literally fifteen layers of clothing on,” Moon wrote.
People don’t understand how drag queens dress for shows, she added.
“You can look at every picture, on stage and off, and when I’m sitting down, I have six pairs of tights on, opaque not sheer, two pairs of fishnets, a body shaper that also acts as an undergarment obscuring the crotch area, and a dress along with a bevy of other undergarments and padding underneath that,” Moon wrote.
In an Instagram Live before the event, Salem Moon said Tulips would donate all bar proceeds from the March 27 performance to LGBTQ Saves, a local nonprofit that supports LGBTQ youth. Salem Moon added in the video caption that performers with acts appropriate for all ages were welcome to join the show.
The Texas Legislature is considering bills that would restrict some drag shows, particularly ones that welcome children.
In his letter to Hegar, O’Hare wrote, “While our legislature presently debates whether to ban minors from attending such performances, I believe in the meantime, we must continue to protect our children in every capacity we legally can.”
Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.
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