Performing drag in public has just become a criminal offense in Tennessee.
Gov. Bill Lee, who also signed a bill banning transgender health care for people under the age of 18, has just signed HB 9, making “a person who engages in an adult cabaret performance on public property” — or where it can be viewed by minors — a criminal offense. Tennessee is the first state to enact legislative bans on drag performances. A first-time offender will be charged with a misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation would be a Class E felony.
The bill includes “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers” in the definition of “adult cabaret performance.”
The drag community is understandably devastated by this bill, and are frustrated that family-friendly drag shows are being misconstrued as sexual.
“For a couple of minutes, an hour or two, whatever the case may be – I just want everybody to forget all their troubles,” Catrina Lovelace, a drag queen, told ABC News. “For me, what a drag show is, is just a celebration of life.”
“Neither of these laws are about protecting youth – they are about spreading dangerous misinformation against the transgender community,” said Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “They are about doubling down on efforts to attack drag artists and transgender youth … drag is a longstanding, celebratory form of entertainment and a meaningful source of employment for many across the state.”
Florida, Arizona, and Texas have also recently introduced similar bills against drag shows.
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