A measure limiting drag performances in public or in front of minors was enacted by Tennessee lawmakers on Thursday, positioning the state at the vanguard of a recent Republican-led campaign to prohibit drag in at least 15 states.
The more than 20 bills across the country are a pushback against modern drag, which has evolved from a subversive performance art that thrived in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender spaces using costumes and makeup to play with gender norms to a mainstream entertainment, helped in part by the success of the televised pageant show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
The planned drag legislation have been criticized by artists and civil rights organizations who claim they are unconstitutional, redundant with current obscenity laws, and will only encourage harassment and violence against homosexual and transgender persons. They view the proposals as a component of a Republican drive to pass legislation that restrict the behavior of LGBT people all around the nation.
The legislation’ proponents claim that their goal is to safeguard children.
Republican Jack Johnson, the majority leader of the Tennessee Senate, made the following remark, “It gives confidence to parents that they can take their kids to a public or private show and will not be blindsided by a sexualized performance.”
Republican Representative Chris Todd said he sponsored the legislation in the House after requesting a court order to prohibit a drag act that was marketed as “family-friendly” during an LGBT Pride celebration in a Jackson park last year, which he said was child abuse.
With the exception of age-restricted places, “adult cabaret entertainment” would no longer be permitted under a measure Johnson and his Senate colleagues enacted last month. Such entertainment was described on the bill as “adult-oriented” performances by go-go dancers, strippers, or “male or female impersonators.”