- Tennessee Republicans passed legislation criminalizing public entertainment in adult cabaret, including drag shows.
- The first offense would be considered a misdemeanor and the subsequent offense a felony, which could result in jail time.
- Performers and civil rights groups denounced the proposed drag rules.
Tennessee politicians have passed legislation restricting drag performances in public or in front of children, putting the state at the forefront of Republican efforts to curb drag in at least 15 states in recent months.
More than 20 bills across the country represent an opposition to modern drag art, which has grown from an underground performance art using costumes and makeup to play with gender norms that flourished in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender venues, into mass entertainment, helped in part by the popularity of television RuPaul’s Drag Race pageant.
Performers and civil rights groups have condemned the proposed drag rules, saying they are unconstitutional, redundant under existing obscenity laws, and will lead to further harassment and violence against gay and transgender people. They see the bills as part of an effort by Republicans to push for laws that restrict the behavior of LGBTIQ+ people across the country.
Supporters of the bill say it is aimed at protecting children.
In recent years, resistance has become more and more visible. Created in 2015. The Drag Story Hour, which features costumed drag performers reading to children, has expanded to at least 20 states. Source: Getty / Chicago Tribune / TNS
“This gives parents the confidence that they can bring their children to a public or private performance and not be overwhelmed by a sexualized performance,” Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson said in a statement.
Republican Representative Chris Todd said he sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives after seeking a court order last year to end an advertised “family” drag show during an LGBTQIQ+ Pride event in a park in Jackson, which he said was a form of child abuse.
“He was forced to be in an over-18s facility and I have been asked to draft legislation that would make that clearer,” Mr. Todd said in the House on Thursday.
This month, Mr. Johnson and his Senate colleagues passed legislation criminalizing “adult cabaret entertainment” in public places or where children can see them, though they will still be allowed in age-restricted locations. . The bill defines such entertainment as including “adult-oriented” performances by strippers, go-go dancers, or “male or female wannabes”.
The first offense would be considered a misdemeanor, and the subsequent offense a felony punishable by one to six years in prison.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will be given to Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, for his signature.
Tennessee, like other states, already has public obscenity and obscenity laws that prohibit excessively violent or sexual performances in front of minors, regardless of the performer’s gender. Drag and drop performances usually do not include nudity or stripping.
Peppermint, the drag artist who rose to fame on ‘Drag Race’, said the anti-drag bills were just the latest in a long history of anti-LGBTIQ+ legislation based on false, dangerous insults to gay and transgender people: that they are ‘care’ for children or the desire to sexually exploit them.
“It’s a straw man, it’s a boogie monster, it’s not really a real thing, so they make up stories,” she said. “The first thing they do is target us, dehumanize us, vilify us, and then legislate against us.”
Drag performers say they are just as capable of tailoring their performance to their audience as other artists. Source: Getty / NurPhoto
As a trans woman, Peppermint said she would now be hesitant to travel to Tennessee, saying that trans performers, even if they don’t do drag, could be accused of impersonating a man or a woman, terms not defined in the law.
In recent years, resistance has become more and more visible. Transvestites starred in commercials for fast food and cars. Drag brunches for all ages are organized in restaurants, and visitors are entertained by artists. Founded in 2015, the Drag Story Hour, in which costumed drag performers read to children, has expanded to at least 20 states.
Drag performers say they are just as capable of tailoring their performance to their audience as other artists, such as an actor who can appear in both an R-rated sexually explicit film and a children’s film.
“Drag is best known for its humor and glamour: we’re talking about people lip-synching to pop songs and dancing in elaborate costumes,” Lynn Purvis, a Tennessee courts administrator who occasionally handled drag, testified against the bill. at a committee meeting.
“Seeing a transvestite doesn’t make a child gay or transgender, but it can help queer children who are suffering, so there is hope that one day they will be free to express themselves.”