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The Fate of Houston’s Last Lesbian Bar Is Exactly What the GOP’s Anti-Drag Bills Are Really About


Leslie Knope says she's very angry on NBC's Parks and Recreation.

Across the United States, we are seeing an ongoing rash of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. The most recent puritanical wave singles out drag queens and drag shows in particular. Conservatives have decided that drag is the thing that’s hurting the children of our country and not, say, firearms, which are a leading cause of death in children. Red states have been hard at work trying to conquer the GOP’s imagined existential crisis. Florida’s new laws have already started affecting upcoming Pride events and non-legislative bans have even reached extremely blue cities like Los Angeles.

The quiet closure of LGBTQIA+ safe spaces

As first reported by Chron, Pearl Bar—Houston’s last dedicated lesbian bar and one of only two lesbian-specific bars in the state of Texas—is struggling to acquire the required liability insurance needed to keep the bar open. Why? Some insurance providers have deemed drag shows too much of a liability to cover.

Owner Julie Mabry opened the Pearl Bar ten years ago to provide a safe (and fun!) place for lesbians. After watching her sister struggle with her identity and sexuality, she opened Pearl Bar so others could have a place to be themselves. It is a beautiful story that may all end because of legislative attacks on drag.

Right now, there are a number of anti-drag bills working their way through the Texas legislature, banning drag under the guise of protecting children from “lascivious” or “sexually oriented” content. (No mention as to why the GOP always thinks drag shows are inherently sexual. Additionally, the vagueness of the language used in these bills puts trans people at increased risk when simply existing in public.)

Under SB-12, if authorities charge a business with exposing minors to sexual material (which they say includes drag as an art form), they could face major fines (up to $10,000) or jail time. Meanwhile, HB 643 would allow individual citizens to sue those businesses, similar to Texas’ “abortion bounty hunter” bill from a few years back.

These punishments are exactly why insurance companies want to stay away. If the business they cover are charged with any of these violations, it would cost the insurance company too much money.

Mabry said she has the necessary insurance coverage to keep the bar open until December. After that, she isn’t so sure of how things will go. While Mabry worries about if her safe space will stay open, actual overtly sexual “family-friendly” places seem unaffected. Hooters, the “family” restaurant sexualizing women remains properly insured. There have been no reports of the scantily clad Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders being hidden away at football games. The problem isn’t exposing children to possible sexual situations. The problem is the GOP’s overt disdain for the LGBTQIA+ community and how they will go to any lengths to erase it.

(via Chron, featured image: NBC)

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D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a freelance pop culture writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.