Tennessee is on track to become not only the first U.S. state to ban drag shows, but also the latest to ban healthcare for trans youth.
House Republicans yesterday passed joint anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that, if signed by the governor, would make Tennessee the first state to criminalize drag shows.
Plunging the southern state into the dark ages, Senate Bill 3 will prevent ‘adult-oriented businesses’ from operating within 300 meters of public property such as schools, parks or places of worship.
Lawmakers have ensured this applies to LGBTQ+ events and spaces by banning drag performances, which they loosely define as ‘male or female impersonators’.
A summary of The bill, categorized as ‘Obscenity and Pornography’, says: ‘As introduced, creates an offense for a person to engage in an adult cabaret performance on public property or in a location where an adult cabaret performance could be seen by a person who is not an adult.’
It also prohibits, as the bill says, ‘topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers (and) strippers… who provide adult entertainment that attracts a lecherous interest’.
This means that all so-called ‘adult-oriented’ entertainment will only be able to operate in venues with 18+.
A first offense would be classified as a misdemeanor offense, and a second offense a felony punishable by up to one year in prison.
The drag ban was proposed by Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson in November.
He said in a statement: “It gives parents confidence that they can take their child to a public or private concert and will not be blindsided by a sexualized performance.”
Johnson’s measure passed the upper house 26 to 6 earlier this month, with the House voting in favor 74 to 19 yesterday.
The proposal will now return to the Senate for procedural agreement before heading to Republican Governor Bill Lee’s desk for final approval.
Lee has a history of passing anti-trans laws.
Republican Rep. Chris Todd, who also sponsored the anti-trans health bill, said he was driven to author the drag ban to stop a local “family-friendly” drag show from taking place in a park.
Jackson Pride came face to face with Representative Todd in court last year after city Pride organizers wanted to host a family-friendly drag show at the third annual Jackson Pride celebration, which was originally to be held in Conger Park. .
Representative Todd stated that the program teaching children about kindness and diversity would amount to “child abuse” and that his bill is a “common sense child safety bill.”
Along with the drag ban, fellow House Bill 9 will bar doctors from providing gender-affirming health care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to transgender youth.
Every major medical organization in the US has supported calls for gender-affirming care for trans minors.
One to study found that transgender youth with access to gender-affirming medical treatments are less likely to experience depression and anxiety and to consider suicide.
While the researchers found that young trans men who could undergo hormone therapy were happier, more satisfied with their lives and more confident.
Since 2015, Tennessee has passed more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state in the country.
So activists weren’t exactly surprised by the pair of bills passed, as they urged the governor to repeal the ‘harmful’ laws.
Given the wording of the drag ban, legislative researcher Erin Reed tweeted: ‘Transgender people and drag performers dancing in a gay pride parade could be considered criminals.
“Cops could start arresting people at gay pride events in Tennessee for being ‘male or female impersonators’ dancing in the street as many of us have seen and participated in.”
Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior adviser to the Human Rights Campaign, said: ‘These extremist legislators have intentionally made life harder and more dangerous for transgender children.’
Kasey Suffredini, vice president of defense and government affairs for The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention group, added: “Politicians don’t have to decide these personal matters by enforcing blanket bans that defy the professional guidance of all leading medical and mental health associations. in the country.’
Both bills come amid a barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation promoted by Republicans in recent years.
The start of the 2023 legislative season has seen more than 340 bills that seek, among other things, to restrict the sports teams, restrooms and health care that trans youth can use.
Some legislation would force teachers to name and gender their trans students and even turn them over to their families.
At least 58,200 transgender youth were at risk of losing access to gender-affirming health care due to GOP-led attempts to ban such treatments, according to a 2022 report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Drag shows, in particular, have become the new battleground for Republicans and right-wing pundits.
There are at least 26 bills targeting drag across the country right now, according to legislative trackers.
In the United States, drag events – from brunches to children’s reading sessions – have also been threatened with violence in recent years.
The Proud Boys, a violent far-right nationalist group, protested and stormed Drag Queen Story Hour events in libraries in front of children.
Sab Samuel, who runs Drag Queen Story Hour UK as Aida H Dee, has seen her events in Britain similarly demonstrated by far-right groups.
‘Drag Queen Story Hour is more than just a little fun, it’s gender-affirming care and a road for queer kids to gain a role model they’ve been denied for years!’ Samuel told Metro.co.uk.
‘Drag Queen Story Hour UK is aware that the US has no say in UK law, but that doesn’t mean those laws won’t find their way into the UK, especially with the current government we have today.
‘If the government we have in power in the UK today stays in power much longer, I see the same laws coming to the UK.’
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