Speed Reads

Drag for me but not for thee

Tennessee governor says photo appearing to show him in women's clothes nothing like drag ban he'll sign

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) told reporters he will sign a bill restricting where drag shows can be performed, calling efforts to conflate the legislation with a yearbook photo that appears to show him dressed as a female cheerleader "ridiculous." Lee did not confirm or deny Monday that he is the cross-dresser in the photo from his 1977 yearbook, first posted on Reddit over the weekend, but he said critics accusing him of hypocrisy are "conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children." 

The legislation in question, which passed the GOP-led state House and Senate last week, will ban "adult cabaret performances" on public property or anywhere it could be "viewed by a person who is not an adult." It defines "adult cabaret" as "topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration."

Lee's press secretary, Jade Cooper Byers, said in a statement that the bill restricting drag shows "specifically protects children from obscene, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families." The "school tradition" she mentions is "most likely a powderpuff football game, in which boys dress as girls and vice versa during homecoming week," NBC News reports

Lee declined to give any examples of specific incidents involving drag performances the bill would prevent, but the intended target is presumably events such as Drag Story Hours at public libraries and schools, where drag performers read books to children. Whether these events, intended to be family-friendly, are "prurient" or "sexualized" would presumably be up to the courts, as would cross-dessing at LGBTQ Pride parades, screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show — and powderpuff football games.

Once Lee signs the legislation, it will be the first to become law of at least 26 bills filed by Republicans nationwide this session seeking to impose restrictions or conditions on drag events, The Washington Post reports.