Tennessee’s LGBTQ Community Rallies as State Pushes Forward on Banning Drag Shows in Public
Protesters gathered Tuesday afternoon in Nashville’s Legislative Plaza to support the state’s LGBTQ community and show their opposition to a law that would criminalize drag performances in public places. Tennessee’s state Senate already voted a similar measure through last week, with the House set to discuss the bill on Tuesday evening. (Tennessee is also voting on multiple measures around trans healthcare, including for trans teenagers.)
An enthusiastic crowd filled up half the Plaza for a series of speakers that included chaplain Molly Rose Quinn from Out Memphis, singer Morgxn, and drag entertainers including DeeDee and Britney Banks. Among those in the crowd were Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd, who shared an Instagram story from the event.
Quinn, the executive director for Out Memphis, touched on the long fight for civil rights in the LGBTQ community and the right to free expression. “We don’t need anyone to tell us where we are welcome,” she said. “We don’t need them to tell us that we are valued or loved, because we already know that. We know that so wholly and fully that it terrifies them.” (Quinn has also been at the forefront of calling out Tennessee’s department of health over its refusal of federal funds for HIV prevention and testing.)
DeeDee’s speech was interrupted by a counter protester with a megaphone, whose noisemaking was quickly shut down by a group that corralled him out of earshot. DeeDee, who is also trans, pointed out the life that drag had been able to provide for her and how the state was now threatening that. “I’m currently putting myself through college,” she said. “And I’m the owner of two properties here in Nashville that I pay taxes on, so I contribute to our city just as much as any other Nashvillian. It’s simply not right for my livelihood and job to be put in jeopardy for political purposes.”
A sizable portion of the protest group proceeded down the street to Cordell Hull office building, where the House Criminal Justice Committee was set to discuss and vote on HB0009. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Todd (R), seeks to criminalize “adult cabaret” performances on public property, a categorization that includes drag performance alongside topless dancing and stripping.
Among the testimonies in opposition to the bill, Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld called it “unconstitutional” and “unnecessary,” explaining that we already have obscenity laws in place to protect children. “It makes our state look silly, backward, unwelcoming, and not a place to relocate a business. We do not need this,” she said, and warned of the lawsuits that will ensue.
Speaker Lynne Purvis made a solid point about the myth of drag queens exposing themselves to children. “Drag is not about exposing private body parts or performing sexual content by nature,” she said. “Let me tell you, with the number of layers most drag queens are wearing, trying to expose a private part is not even really feasible.”
And Dahron Johnson, a trans woman who has worked as a healthcare chaplain, made a point about how the bill will also be weaponized against trans people in their normal, everyday dress. “This bill leaves dangerously up for grabs who gets to make the I-know-it-when-I-see-it decision about what, about who qualifies,” she said. “Not just in the courts, but in the moment. In the event. When someone sees me or someone else from my community and, emboldened by legislation like this, decides there’s something patently offensive about my presence.”
Trump 'Went to Waco to Bring Back Visions' of Cult Leader David Koresh, Democratic Rep. Says
Trump Claims Without Evidence That District Attorney 'Already Dropped' the Stormy Daniels Case
Ed Sheeran Confesses: Tears, Trauma, and Those Bad Habits
Camila Morrone on That Shocking ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ Finale
Testimony in favor of the bill included a representative from the far-right, anti-trans group Gays Against Groomers, who said that “if we don’t get this problem solved, children will continue to be exposed to overly sexual performances,” while two drag queens over his right shoulder stared daggers. Others included local anti-trafficking advocate Landon Starbuck and West Tennessee pastor Adam Dooley, who said the quiet part out loud when asserting that it was fine for adults and adults only to have drag shows. “They do not have a right to insist that children be present, and frankly I question whether there is some sinister motive that would drive the demand for children to be present,” he said.
In the end, testimony didn’t seem to make much of a difference. The committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill, which now moves on to the Calendars and Scheduling Committee. Tennessee’s is one of a handful of bills aimed at drag performance in the U.S., with others happening in Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, and South Carolina.
Internet Archive Loses First Battle in Publishers' Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
- 'The Fight Continues'