By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Hundreds gathered in downtown Montgomery on Tuesday to protest a number of LGBTQ+-related bills currently put forth by Republican members of the Alabama Legislature, which opponents say, criminalize freedom of expressions.
Brianna Patterson, a transgender veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, said a core reason people join the military is to “fight for the freedoms” that people in this country enjoy.
“The premise of patriotism is we go and seek to protect those that cannot protect themselves and to protect the freedoms that we supposedly have here in the United States. I feel like I’m being legislated out of existence…,” Patterson said.
Protesters pointed to a number of proposed bills that they say raised concerns. HB401, introduced on April 27, would ban drag and gender-oriented materials in K-12 public schools, libraries and public places where minors are present. It would also make it a misdemeanor to expose minors to drag and gender-oriented materials in other venues with fines of up to $10,000 or up to one year in jail.
Stopping the bills proposed by legislators is “an uphill battle”, but one that must be fought, Patterson said.
“If we just take it that it’s Alabama politics, and nothing’s ever going to change, then nothing is ever going to change,” Patterson said.
Brian Swain, known to most as Uncle Daddy, who hosts drag nights at Rhonda’s Sports Bar in Montgomery, said Alabama legislators “act like a spaceship landed out in Nevada and drag queens just started unloading off of it.”
Men dressing as women for entertainment purposes is not new, he said, pointing to Wesley Snipes in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar But all people performing in drag share a common desire, Swain said.
“That’s because they have a love and a drive to entertain people and to connect with people because you don’t realize [that] until you’ve been to a drag show.,” Swain said.
Josh Coleman, President of Central Alabama Pride, said HB401 “is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression and the vibrant culture of the LGBTQ community in Alabama. Drag performances have long been a source of empowerment, resilience, and unity for our community, and banning them is an affront to our fundamental rights,” Coleman said. “Additionally, in its haste to assault the LGBTQ community, the Alabama Legislature has drafted a bill so broad that it could criminalize a day at the beach. This crusade to legislate subjective notions of morality threatens the liberty of every Alabamian.”
Gina Mallisham, Vice President of Central Alabama Pride, pointed to HB261 which the CAP official referred to as the “anti-trans collegiate sports ban”, the bill relating to two and four-year higher education institutions, that would require trans athletes to participate only on teams that align with their sex assigned at birth.
At Tuesday’s march, Bill Kendricks, a military vet who identifies as straight, said he’s fought for all Americans. It’s “frightening” and “insulting” that legislators are stoking fear of queer Alabamians, said Kendricks, who added he has family members who are gay.