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Commentary: Queens, Kings, and Zugzwang

It’s March, Women’s History Month, a month dotted with many milestones: Girl Scout Cookie season, March Madness, a holiday that turns the Chicago River green, and you may even catch the snow geese migrating across Illinois.

I always like March. Spring sports like softball, flowers of crocuses and daffodils braving the unpredictable weather, the extra hour of daylight in the evenings.

This year, March was—unfortunately—accompanied with a fuss. A kerfuffle. A commotion. It started in Tennessee and quickly stormed the nation. A fuss about—how shall I say it—performance royalty.

This anti-drag legislation is coming on the high heels of a year that continues to be a zugzwang for many of us. Now, you’ve probably experienced zugzwang many times, even if it’s a word you’re unfamiliar with. It’s a term used in turn-based games, like chess, where your opponent forces you to make a legal move during your next turn. A move that disadvantages you, often to your detriment.

A major zugzwang came down in June. Many of us found that—depending on our state’s laws—the only legal move to access safe and legal reproductive healthcare is to cross state borders on your own dime and risk legal and health repercussions in the process. Uhhh—zugzwang.

Tennessee isn't the only state getting in the game, doling out a fistful of draw four cards. While Tennessee is fretting over how citizens dress, Florida is jamming the auditory senses and boggling brains in the educational system. It’s a hurtful zugzwang to not allow children to acknowledge that they have gay parents. Or to force school employees to feel that they need to zugzwang around the bush when they introduce their partners at the next holiday party, never mind all the holiday carols that are glittered with the word gay. What are we going to sing? Don we now our Dolly Parton apparel?

But I digress. I still like March. I like seeing all the worms coming out in the full moon light. I like seeing the deer hoof prints that sink deep into the wet ground. I like spring break. I like to watch the students get excited for graduation. It’s a great month.

It’s a great month to be gay, to be a femme, butch, androgynous, genderqueer, trans, nonbinary.

And although Kermit and Elphaba might disagree, it’s even a great month to be green.

Jade Kastel (she/her) is the music librarian and an assistant professor at Western Illinois University.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the university or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged. 

Thank you to Mateo Sánchez for recording this commentary.