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Tennessee drag queens condemn plans to make their shows illegal: ‘Drag is to lift ourselves up’

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A photo of A drag queen holding an umbrella with Pride rainbow colours on a float at Nashville Pride parade

Drag queens in Tennessee have responded to lawmakers’ plans to make their performances illegal, and explained why they are so important to the LGBTQ+ community.

Tennessee lawmakers are set to look at a proposed anti-drag bill in January 2023 that would ban drag from being performed in public places.

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The bill was filed to the Tennessee General Assembly by its senate majority leader Jack Johnson in November 2022.

It classifies drag as “adult cabaret” and would make it an offence to perform on public property or where it “could be viewed by a person who is not an adult”.

While the bill proposes making a first offence a misdemeanour, it would class a second offence as a Class E felony, which could see people jailed for up to six years.

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Tennessee-born drag queen Eureka O’Hara told Rolling Stone the intention of “drag queens or queer people is not to take away from any other group of people or from families or children“.

“It’s only to help ourselves and lift ourselves up. That’s our only agenda.”

O’Hara said both sides share a goal, “which is to exist and thrive in a way that makes us comfortable and happy”.

Drag Race star Eureka!
Eureka! says the only goal of drag is to ‘lift’ LGBTQ+ up. (Credit: Getty/Paul Archuleta)

Another drag queen, Kennedy Ann Scott, told the magazine the art form gave her “how to be me”.

“It taught me to find the confidence that I never thought I’d have.”

Scott said their sense of self-expression and empowerment is being threatened by the proposed law.

There are similar bills from right-wing politicians and activists across the United States, including one in Idaho.

Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has been vocal about her thoughts on making it illegal to take children to drag shows.

When it’s not proposing legislation, activists have spent a lot of time targeting drag in other ways too in recent years – particularly drag queen story hours.

There’s also incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ groups asking people to ‘report’ drag shows, although it’s not clear what happens with the information.

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