Tennessee just became first US state to ban drag shows in chilling blow for LGBTQ+ rights

Drag queens

Tennessee has officially become the first US state to ban drag performances, as the number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills continue to rocket across the US. 

The southern state’s Senate passed a bill banning drag shows in public on Thursday (23 February), with the measure heading to the desk of Republican governor Bill Lee.

Tennessee’s Senate Bill 3, introduced in November by Republican state senate majority leader Jack Johnson, aims to update an existing state law preventing “adult-oriented businesses” from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship to include “adult cabaret performances”, which the legislation defines as performances that feature “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest”, The Hill states

Alongside the drag ban, lawmakers also voted to send a bill to the governor that bans doctors from providing gender-affirming medical treatment such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery, for transgender minors.

The new law could also impact public Pride celebrations and is just one of dozens of anti-LGBTQ+ laws which seek to ban gender affirming care, drag shows, LGBTQ+ books and trans athletes. 

Earlier this week, Johnson said in a statement that the new law “gives confidence to parents that they can take their kids to a public or private show and will not be blindsided by a sexualised performance”. 

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Under Tennessee’s bill, a first offence would be treated as a misdemeanour, but a second offence would be treated as a felony.

As reported by Quartz, Erin Reed – a queer legislative researcher and transgender rights activist – said the language of the bill is “very broad” and does not differentiate between trans people and drag performers. 

The bill says “male and female impersonators” cannot “provide entertainment that appeals to prurient interest.

“Drag queen story hours will no longer be rushed by proud boys, but cops.”

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