"Given our heightened focus on human trafficking and the role money plays in trafficking children, I knew I had to take action to make sure this activity does not occur again."
One Ohio lawmaker wants parents to be held accountable for their part in allowing children to perform drag in public.
Rep. Tim Schaffer (R) has introduced HB180, a bill that if passed would expand Ohio's child endangerment laws and make it illegal for children under the age of 18 to perform in ways that could be perceived as simulating, sexual activity that “taken as a whole by the average person applying contemporary standards, appeals to the prurient interest.”
Adults who are found guilty of such practices could face up to six months behind bars and a hefty $1,000 fine.
The bill is a heavy-handed response to a Toledo performance by Jacob Measley, a 9-year-old drag performer who goes by the stage name “Miss Mae Hem.”
Schaffer criticized his parents for allowing him to perform in such a way as to suggest something sexual.
“Given our heightened focus on human trafficking and the role money plays in trafficking children, I knew I had to take action to make sure this activity does not occur again,” Schaffer said. “We can do better to protect innocent children and we must do better.”
Jeri Measley, Jacob’s mother says everything her son is doing is completely innocent and she and her husband make sure to monitor the content of the songs and his routines.
“Jacob is just a guy who likes to dress up and dance and feel pretty,” she said. “It’s kind of like Halloween every time he has the opportunity to do it.”
She also explains that Jacob is an inspiration to queer youth who may not have any role models in their peer group to look up to.
“Where else is there right now for children who identify as being in the LGBT community to explore that interest? There's not,” she said, adding that young musicians are often using the same spaces to perform. “The difference is a lack of wig and heels,” she said.
Another young drag performer, Desmond is Amazing and his parents are no strangers to the gavel of social media criticism. Just last month his mother went toe-to-toe with a YouTuber who called Child Protective Services on her.
CPS found the claims of abuse "unfounded."
Desmond sent a positive message to Jacob via a status update, "We support you Miss Mae Hem and family...please stay strong!"
HB180 has garnered eight supporters thus far.