Posted on September 12, 2023, by Massey Law Group
Art is expression. It allows the artist and the public to consider their lives within our complex social and political climate. For the LGBTQ+ community, the art of drag performance expresses the freedom and fluidity of sexuality and gender.
In celebration of the Collab at 3833’s two-year anniversary, we hosted a special event, “The Art of Fashion,” featuring a drag queen performance. Also, coinciding with our event was the U.S. court’s blocking of Florida’s drag performance restrictions, which gave us even greater cause to celebrate.
Freedom of artistic expression is part of our country’s identity and core values. The right to freedom of expression, as expressed in terms of U.S. constitutional law, “the right to free speech,” is included in the U.S. Constitution through the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in 1791. “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .” Whether artistic expression is separate and apart from ordinary speech has (deliberately) not been decided by the United States Supreme Court. Instead, the U.S.S.C. has consistently deferred from opining on what constitutes art, recognizing that the courts are not well-positioned to make this determination.
In 1903, Justice Holmes famously posited that “[i]t would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only in the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations, outside of the narrowest and most obvious limits. At the one extreme, some works of genius would be sure to miss appreciation.” More recently, in 1978, Justice Scalia stated:
I must note, however, that in my view it is quite impossible to come to an objective assessment of (at least) literary or artistic value, there being many accomplished people who have found literature in Dada, and art in the replication of a soup can …. I think we would be better advised to adopt as a legal maxim what has long been the wisdom of mankind: De gustibus non est disputandum. Just as there is no use arguing about taste, there is no use litigating about it. For the law courts to decide “What is Beauty” is a novelty even by today’s standards.
With limited exceptions, United States jurisprudence, from the inception of our nation, supports the freedom of speech afforded all artistic expression. While there is no U.S.S.C. case on point regarding the artistic quality of drag performances, we believe that a judicial challenge to our right to perform and enjoy drag shows is in fact protected speech. The Collab at 3833 and MLG support the LGBTQ+ community and safeguard artistic freedoms. We believe all citizens should have freedom of expression and recognize the human impact of unconstitutional bans on art and artistic freedoms, limiting an individual’s ability to express their identity safely.
The Collab includes four women lawyers who came together to promote female empowerment in the legal profession: Starlett Massey of Massey Law Group, Kristina Feher of Feher Law, and Liz Moneymaker of Ferrarri, Butler, and Moneymaker PLLC. Since its inception, the Collab at 3833 has hosted events from campaign fundraisers to art shows featuring emerging St. Pete artists. The Collab’s mission and values are:
Feminism is for everyone.
Love is love.
Black Lives Matter.
Science is real.
Pets enrich our lives.
One of our celebration’s drag performers, Brianna, spoke about drag being a creative outlet for her and how it helps her to deal with the anxiety of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Florida. She said, “Drag, to me, is life-saving. It’s life-changing.”
It has empowered Brianna to heal and grow confident as a member of the LGBTQ+ community despite discrimination and backlash. She shared that drag, as art and entertainment, plays a vital role in her mental health. Furthermore, it can be important in shifting our culture’s perspective on sexuality and gender identity.
The current political climate in Florida does not foster inclusivity, acceptance, and equal protection for those in the LGBTQ+ community. By supporting drag performance, you support the performer and foundational significance of art — to elevate, understand, and appreciate our diverse community.
A ban on drag bans the individual’s expression of identity and furthers homophobic gender norms, which incite hate and division. Unconstitutional bans on artistic expression are detrimental to individuals and the growth of our society. Drag performance helps to educate, inspire, entertain, and break down the walls of hatred toward the LGBTQ+ community.
Supporting art and artistic freedom is at the core of the Collab and MLG. Our space was founded in 2021 to be a collaborative space where events could be held so that historically marginalized communities and discussions about their work, creative process, and impact on the arts could take place. We believe that art is vital to personal expression — and the meaning of personal expression is essential to overall wellness. As with any bans, there are real-life implications on individuals, and the human impact should be at the forefront of considered legislation across Florida and our country.
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