Amidst Florida’s burgeoning anti-LGBTQ+ climate, a unique candidate has emerged to voice out against this alarming trend. Michael Travis, better known by his stage name Erika Rose, is determined to challenge the status quo by vying for a seat in the state legislature.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has been a vocal critic of LGBTQ+ rights, particularly targeting LGBTQ-centric education and criticising what he calls the ‘woke’ left. His ambitions for a presidential role have seen him fervently reverse rights and protections for the trans and queer communities, transforming Florida into a hotbed for conservative policies.

In response to this political turmoil, Erika Rose is contesting against Jim Mooney, a two-term Republican of Florida House District 120 in Key West. A win for her could be historic, marking her as the first drag performer in Florida’s state legislature. She remarked to PinkNews, “It’s a telling sign of Florida’s bizarre politics when a drag queen feels compelled to run.”


The question everyone posed before her candidacy announcement was whether she aimed to win or merely to make a point. She asserted, “The goal is victory. But, yes, there’s also a message.” Rose intends to confront politicians like representative Randy Fine, who publicly denigrated Pride events in his district.

While the symbolic weight of her candidacy is evident, Rose emphasises that the broader goal is representation and validation. “Even if I don’t clinch the win, the very act of running ensures someone out there feels seen and significant.”

The decision to run was catalysed during a protest in Tallahassee against Florida’s controversial anti-drag bill (SB 1438). Erika Rose recalls, “The idea of running took shape during that drive to the capital. If we’re to make a genuine impact, it’s at the state level where we can truly advocate for rationality.”

This contentious legislation, approved by DeSantis in May, threatens establishments with fines or revoked liquor licenses if they allow minors into performances that hint at explicit content. Passed simultaneously was the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, a ban on gender-affirming healthcare, and restrictions on trans individuals’ bathroom use. Thankfully, the drag ban met resistance in June, with a federal judge provisionally blocking it due to its vague and potentially unjust stipulations.

Erika Rose laments the misdirection of Florida’s politicians, accusing them of overlooking genuine issues like housing and environmental concerns and instead focusing on vilifying drag queens and trans individuals. “In my view,” Rose says, “drag queens are being targeted because we’ve historically been the outspoken and visible advocates. The strategy seems to be to silence the prominent voices first.”