On March 4, the governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, signed a bill into law that is changing the landscape of LGBTQ+ rights, and creating a conversation across the country. With his signature, Lee made it official that Tennessee will restrict all public drag performances, with the law going into effect on July 1.
The bill that was passed restricts adult cabaret performances in public or in the presence of children, and it bans them from occurring with 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, and places of worship.
“I was honestly really surprised that drag shows are being banned, especially because of the progress that has been made with the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community,” said senior Catherine Hoblin. “This feels like another step back from what the community has been working towards for a long time.”
Many opponents of the drag show art-form have argued that nudity is present in these shows and that they are promoting ideas to the youth that are not appropriate for them to be seeing. They do not see this as an attack on the community, but rather a matter of safety.
There are several other states that are also debating this topic and might move forward with a bill of their own. These states include Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
As supporters of drag look for a way to protest this, users on Reddit did a deep search into the governor’s past life and found photos of Lee dressed in drag back in high school. The photos originate from the 165th page of the Franklin High 1977 yearbook, which is the school the governor attended. The photo is captioned “hard luck women,” and it portrays three men who are cross-dressed as women with wigs.
On Twitter, in response to this photo, Gov. Lee stated that there is a big difference between wearing a dress at a high school football game and drag queens wearing a dress on stage.
Opponents of the bill argue that the line is not clear and their rights are being stripped away, as reported by many news outlets. They argue that drag doesn’t typically involve stripping or nudity, and all shows are tailored to the audience at hand.
Junior Nicky Duca is somebody who feels passionate about the topic, as he is currently playing a drag character, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, in Sacred Heart University’s production of “Rocky Horror.” He has also been an avid supporter of the community for years.
“My first reaction to this news is that I am truly heartbroken and saddened. I’m hurt because I have found a home and community in the world of drag and I have felt nothing but love and care from these environments and the people involved with them,” said Duca.
With the bill being official, the community is looking to find other ways to continue their art without being victimized for it. The performers will try to work around the language of the bill, and see if there are alternatives they can explore.
“In all honesty, I’m not surprised this is happening because in this country, it has always been challenging to be yourself and truly authentic. I have found a home with the LGBTQ+ community and believe that they stand for love, acceptance, and life,” said Duca.