Tennessee Becomes First State to Pass Legislation Restricting Drag Shows

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed a bill banning drag shows in public spaces, a measure that will likely force drag shows underground in Tennessee.

via: People

Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill into law restricting “adult cabaret performances” — which it defines to include “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers,” and “male or female impersonators.”

The law, which was signed Thursday, bans the performances on both public property as well as “in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.”

CNN reports that the measure is the first of several other, similar bills being introduced by Republican-led legislatures in other states.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Jack Johnson, told CNN the bill “does not ban drag shows in public. It simply puts age restrictions in place to ensure that children are not present at sexually explicit performances.”

As NPR reports, Lee signed the bill on the same day he signed a bill banning gender-affirming health care for transgender youths in the state.

It also comes as a photo taken of Lee in high school circulates, apparently showing the future governor dressed in drag himself. After the photo was surfaced by outlets including Nashville Public Radio, Lee’s office did not dispute its authenticity, instead saying it was simply evidence of “lighthearted school traditions.”

“The bill specifically protects children from obscene, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families,” Lee’s press secretary Jade Byers told various outlets.

Speaking to NPR, Tennessee drag performer Hella Skeleton commented: “For Bill Lee to say, ‘You know, that was lighthearted when I did it,’ that is absolutely absurd when a lot of drag is extremely lighthearted. Apparently when straight men dress up badly in drag, that’s OK. But when gay and queer and trans people do it, that’s not OK.”

LGBTQ advocates have argued that the bill would go much further than limiting “obscene” entertainment and could impact things like Drag Queen Story Hour events at local libraries, which have been targeted across the country in recent months.

Drag Queen Story Hour is an organization with chapters across the U.S., and involves “drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores.” According to the organization’s website, “DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.”

In June of last year, police began investigating a potential hate crime after a group of Proud Boys — the far-right, exclusively male group known for instigating violence and espousing misogynistic and racist views — stormed a Drag Queen Story Hour event at a Bay Area library.

According to a press release by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to the San Lorenzo Library following a report of a disturbance. When authorities arrived, they learned that a group of five men had disrupted the reading event, which was being attended by “children, parents and other community members.”

“A group of 5 men entered the library and disrupted the reading event,” the sheriff’s office said in the release. “The men were described as members of the Proud Boys organization, known to be a right wing hate group with anti-LGBTQ affiliations.”

Once inside the library, the men “began to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event organizer. The men were described as extremely aggressive with a threatening violent demeanor causing people to fear for their safety.”

The post Tennessee Becomes First State to Pass Legislation Restricting Drag Shows appeared first on LOVEBSCOTT.