3 March 2023

Tennessee becomes first ever US state to restrict drag shows

150 bills targeting transgender people and 340 bills targeting LGTBQ+ people as a whole have been filed in state legislatures this year.

Tennessee has become the first state in the US to approve restrictions on where drag shows can be performed. Because we’re sure there are no more pressing issues the state could be dealing with, right?

The bill passed by the Tennessee legislature and signed by Governor Bill Lee on Thursday effectively bans drag from being performed on public property or in spaces where minors are present, even though children are constantly exposed to other forms of gender expression.

The bill does not explicitly mention drag shows but rather changes the definition of adult cabaret in the state to include “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors” and classifies “male or female impersonators” as adult cabaret performers alongside performers like strippers.

The law, which is regarded as an attack on the state’s transgender community, has been condemned by groups like Human Rights Watch. Lee on Thursday also signed a total ban on gender-affirming healthcare in the state, meaning those in the state won’t be able to access things like puberty blockers and hormone treatments. Meanwhile, gender-affirming surgeries are also now banned.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) the number of bills targeting transgender Americans has increased dramatically over the last several years, with 150 bills targeting transgender people and 340 bills targeting LGTBQ+ people as a whole filed in state legislatures this year. The issue has become increasingly prominent in the media, with prominent right-wing commentators, including Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, and Matt Walsh, continuously spouting out anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.

Unfortunately, the legislation could now lead to a domino effect, with other Republican states implementing similar bills. The ACLU has said that it plans to sue the state over the gender-affirming care ban, and the ban on drag shows in public places and non-age-restricted venues could also face legal challenges.

  • Writer Chris Saunders
  • Banner Image Credit ACLU

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