The GOP Is Going After Drag Shows, Starting in Tennessee
Photo: Jesús Boscán / Unsplash

The GOP Is Going After Drag Shows, Starting in Tennessee

A new state law tries to restrict “adult cabaret performances” from public view despite governor's apparent cross-dressing past

The first of about a dozen bills targeting drag shows and being pushed across different states by the GOP has become the law in Tennessee. Bill Lee, the state's governor, signed a bill this week that will restrict adult cabaret shows, including drag performances "that appeals to a prurient interest" from public property, CNN reports.

Of course, what constitutes "prurient interest" is in the loins of the beholder, but it hasn't stopped Republicans from equating drag shows to grooming, and making it part of an agenda against transgender and drag communities.

Drag shows—which can sometimes be sexual in nature but are typically exaggerated makeup and dress in a show with lots of singing and crowdwork—have been under fire even as shows like RuPaul's Drag Race have made them more mainstream. The last straw for those against drag seemed to be the things like the event series Drag Story Hour, which uses drag as a way of storytelling for all ages. As the group Drag Story Hour says on its website, it seeks to help kids find their authentic selves and "captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models." Since at least 2020, the group has been under fire for what opponents claim is an attempt to bring sexualized entertainment to audiences of children.

Ironically, the Tennessee governor has been accused of hypocrisy after a 1977 high school yearbook photo of him wearing women's clothing surfaced. CNN said it couldn't verify if the photo was real, but the governor commented on it without denying it was real, saying that a photo like that shouldn't be conflated with "sexualized entertainment in front of children."

This sounds like Lee is saying the photo couldn't possibly have been prurient or sexy, which may just be the governor selling himself short. We've seen the photo and the governor has some nice legs. Don't let the children see it, it could be illegal.

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