The Republican lawmaker who authored a bill banning drag in Texas defended a video of himself appearing in drag, saying it was “a joke.”
In the video, which was circulated Monday by a popular liberal Texas politics Twitter account and first reported by NBC News, Texas state Rep. Nate Schatzline appears to be running, skipping, and dancing while wearing a black dress and a red masquerade mask as the song “Sexy Lady” by Javi Mula plays.
User @LivingBlueTx uploaded the video to both Twitter and TikTok earlier this week with the caption “Nate Schatzline has made his entire personality attacking the LGBTQ community, trans especially children, and vowed to ban drag shows in Texas.”
Schatzline confirmed in a tweet on Tuesday that he was in the video, which named him in the credits as playing the role of “The Virgin.” The other individuals in the video all appear to be Schatzline’s classmates while he attended Southwestern Assemblies of God University as an undergraduate student. The university did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.
“Y’all really going crazy over me wearing a dress as a joke back in school for a theatre project? Yah, that’s not a sexually explicit drag show… lol y’all will twist ANYTHING,” he wrote.
On Wednesday, Schatzline further slammed “left wing media” for drawing attention to the video. He said that his classmates “dared him to put on a dress” for a class project.
Schatzline, a former pastor, introduced Texas’s HB 1266 in mid-January. Like dozens of bills across the US attempting to ban drag from the eyes of the public — and minors in particular — Schatzline’s bill would amend the state’s Business and Commerce Code to redefine a venue that allows drag performances as a “sexually oriented business.”
This would mean that businesses that allow drag performances — whether that be a drag queen story hour or a club night — would be in the same category as adult bookstores, “sex parlors,” and adult movie theaters.
Though it is unclear how the Texas bill would be enforced, Schatzline’s performance, under the language he introduced, appears to meet his definition of drag.
The bill defines the art form as a performance “in which a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and signs, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”
Schatzline is now the third Republican to be caught violating his own party’s attempts to restrict drag.
Last weekend, a photo that appears to be Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee dressed in a cheerleader skirt, wig, and pearl necklace went viral on Reddit. The photo was shared only a few days after Tennessee’s legislature sent HB 9, the state’s drag ban, to Lee’s desk. The Republican governor is expected to sign the ban, as well as one on gender-affirming care for minors, into law as soon as this week.
Lee did not confirm or deny his appearance in the photo taken from his 1977 high school yearbook. “What a ridiculous, ridiculous question that is,” he told the Tennessee Holler in a video interview. “Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject.”
In January, a 2008 photo of Rep. George Santos of New York in a red feathery dress, silver earrings, and a full face of makeup spread like wildfire across social media. The Republican member of Congress, who has been accused for months of lying and misrepresenting almost every aspect of his past, denied that he ever performed as a “drag queen” in Brazil. He did not, however, deny that he did drag. Santos told reporters at the time, “I was young and I had fun at a festival. Sue me for having a life.”
Though Republicans have united around calling out any kind of gender presentation that differs from the expectations of one’s sex assigned at birth, before the last few years, plenty of conservatives also apparently considered drag to simply be fun.
In 2009, the Hawkins County Republican Party in Tennessee held a drag show as a fundraiser. Then-representative Zach Wamp, future governor Bill Haslam, and then-representative Phil Roe were all in attendance.
On the Hawkins GOP website, a blog post recapping the event said the crowd enjoyed “an evening of hilarity and seriousness with a ‘Womanless Fashion Show’” that featured 33 Hawkins County Republicans in drag. The current chair of the party in Hawkins County, Pam Jenkins, said she was not involved at the time and did not comment on the event.