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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Senate Bill 12 affects local drag community

Marisa Nuñez
Local drag queen Brianna St. James performs on stage at SMTX Pride, Sept. 9, 2023, at San Marcos Plaza Park.

After the closure of Stonewall Warehouse in January, several local drag queens feel lost without a designated safe space within the San Marcos community. The addition of Senate Bill 12 (SB 12), a bill that criminalizes “sexually oriented performances” in front of minors and public spaces being temporarily blocked, local drag queens live in fear of the outcome that can inevitably change their lives. 

This bill can be seen in different forms across the nation where laws like SB 12 are in the process of being signed or have been deemed unconstitutional. 

For eight years, Stonewall Warehouse was the only LGBTQ+ bar in San Marcos, providing a stage for drag performances as well as a safe space for locals and performers. Without Stonewall Warehouse, local drag queens have had a hard time coming together to a space where they feel safe, especially during a time when they feel their community is under attack.  

“I don’t really go out anymore like I used to,” Calor, a local drag queen and former Stonewall Warehouse performer, said. “It’s really hard for us, especially in a small town in Texas of legislation and stuff that’s happening lately. We don’t get to see our community on a regular basis like we used to.”

Since the announcement of the bill in June, local drag queens have continued to perform cautiously unsure of what is acceptable. Devonna St. James, a former Stonewall performer and San Antonio local, lost her job at San Antonio College due to fear of the bill. 

“We made events for students and had drag queens…[it] also enabled me to hire local talent within my community and local artists [who] some of them weren’t even drag queens. Because of this bill, before the fall semester started I was let go,” Devonna St. James said. “I no longer work for the college, all my events are canceled, including a fashion show, which has nothing to do with drag, because of the fear of this bill.” 

Two drag queens share a moment on stage during a performance at SMTX Pride, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023 at San Marcos Plaza Park. (Marisa Nuñez)

Many local drag queens are active community members consistently hosting drag events to raise money and give back to San Marcos. For years, Brianna St. James, a San Marcos drag queen, has been hosting drag events welcoming all locals, including children, making sure that shows are family friendly by providing activities like coloring books and crayons.

“We’re not harming anybody, we’re just entertainment,” Brianna St. James said. “All my shows have always been family friendly events. I’ve bought colors and crayons and coloring books just to make sure that the kids are happy in the audience, and they have something to do…There are drag queens that have a big heart like me who want to give back and want the children there.” 

Fueled by the Stonewall Warehouse closure, Brianna St. James and other locals started the San Marcos Queer Council earlier this year. The organization meets twice a week and is in the process of finding a new safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Still enjoying what they love, local drag queens participated in SMTX Pride hosted by Sylvia Sandoval and Brianna St. James. Drag shows went on from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 9 at San Marcos Plaza Park. Despite SB 12’s potential punishments, drag queens still performed in shows for the public.

For Kenya Monae, a local drag queen, drag helped her through her transition to find her place in life and if it wasn’t for drag she says she wouldn’t be alive today.

“I love drag so much,” Kenya Monae said. “It helped me be a confident woman when I didn’t feel the most pretty. If I didn’t feel like I was my absolute best, drag helped me by picking me up when I was down. Now it’s like why? Why would you want to take that away from me? My joy. Before drag, everything was black and white, but when I put on my dress and my wig I saw color…for me if there wasn’t drag I wouldn’t be alive.”

The laws similar to SB 12 in Tennessee, Florida and Montana have all been successfully blocked. Drag queens in San Marcos hope for the same. 

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