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Binder brand For Them reveals ‘Drag is divine’ ads in response to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

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By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

May 22, 2023 | 5 min read

Provocative ads placed throughout subway systems raise awareness about anti-drag bills while raising funds for the queer community.

'drag is divine' OOH campaign

The OOH campaign is meant to raise awareness about recent anti-LGBTQ+ laws / Credit: For Them

In recent months, more than 13 states have introduced legislation that censors drag performers from working in public spaces and around children. In fact, more than 400 bills have been introduced this year alone.

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In response, For Them, a trans-owned brand that makes apparel for transgender people, has today unveiled an out-of-home campaign called ‘Drag is divine’ throughout New York City, Los Angeles and London subways.

Designed to raise awareness and spark conversation, the ads and wheat pastings display provocative messages like “So hot they started a culture war for us,” and “Drag is divine: it needs no intervention.” In a foreground that appears like the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve figures recline and gaze at the viewer. Both wear makeup and satin clothing, suggesting an air of gender nonconformity.

“Why Adam and Eve? Drag and gender-bending expression is not new - we have always been here,“ says Kylo Freeman, founder of For Them. “We created an aesthetic that speaks to the beginning of time as a way to nod to the rich history of gender expansiveness at the ‘origin‘ of our society, like the two-spirit community in indigenous cultures. This history is undermined by anti-drag legislators and anti-trans commentators, who often frame gender fluidity, drag and transness as a ‘new‘ phenomenon or modern ‘issue‘ that needs legislation.“

Beyond the visual displays, For Them plans to provide financial support to the affected groups through fundraising events throughout Pride Month in June. According to For Them officials, funds raised from both events and binder sales will be donated to Drag Story Hour, an event company that organizes book readings between drag queens and children, and the ACLU Drag Defense Fund, which fights to protect drag performers at the legislative level.

With this work, For Them is “putting a middle finger up to the anti-LGBTQ+ law-makers that are attempting to legislate gender non-conformity out of existence, to legally enforce binaries and criminalize queer freedom of expression,“ says Freeman. “We hope this campaign will mobilize civic action, raise funds to support the legal defense of LGBTQ+ rights and stoke the fire of queer revolution that’s already taking place around the world. This is an image of proud defiance and solidarity for our drag family and queer siblings who are feeling the shockwaves of this kind of political attack.”

Freeman adds that these bills not only put drag queens out of work, but potentially set a dangerous precedent for more oppressive legislation that may undo existing rights of the queer community. They noted Florida, which recently signed SB254 into law, which allows the state to remove transgender children from their families.

“While this legislation speaks directly to drag, these bills are laying legislative foundations that reach further than the art form. They criminalize and threaten the safety of gender nonconforming folx in public places,” they said. “This is another avenue being taken by anti-LGBTQ+ politicians to remove the rights, freedoms and legal protection currently held by the queer community.”

The ad campaign was conceptualized internally by the For Them team. “To legislate drag away from public spaces and children implies some kind of perceived threat which we wanted to clap back at,“ says Freeman. “There is nothing more divine and beautiful than human expression in its most authentic, full and expansive form. In this political climate, there are far more pressing threats than a sensationalized attack on an ancient art form and identities that have always existed.“

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