Transgender Americans are under attack. Across the country, Republicans have introduced an avalanche of legislation to restrict access to gender-affirming health care, censor how gender is discussed in schools, prevent trans people from using public bathrooms and even ban drag shows and cross-dressing onstage.
In March, Tennessee criminalized drag performances where children are present. In April, Montana Republicans barred Representative Zooey Zephyr from the floor of the state House in part for her vocal opposition to a similar bill, which is now headed to the governor’s desk.
Attacks on gender nonconformity — and cross-dressing in particular — have a long history in America. Anti-drag laws similar to the one passed in Tennessee and even more restrictive cross-dressing bans were part of municipal criminal codes for most of the 20th century.
But just as the laws aren’t new, neither is the fight against them. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, gender nonconforming activists argued that sartorial censorship harms anyone who deviates from rigid gender norms.