Tennessee lawmakers pass bill restricting drag shows with minors present

by Jacob Fuller

Vicky Arias, FISM News

House Republicans in Tennessee this morning passed a bill restricting drag performances from taking place “on public property” or in areas where minors could be in attendance.

The bill previously passed the state’s Senate and will now go before Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee for final approval.

The governor must choose to endorse and sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature in the coming days.

The bill makes it a legal offense to carry out “an adult cabaret performance” where a minor might be present. Cabaret performers in the bill include “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, [and] male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest” or sexual matters.

A total of 15 states around the country are proposing similar legislation, including Texas, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Arkansas.

The drag show restrictions come as a reaction to drag performances across the country where families with minor children are encouraged to attend.

Drag queen story hours at local libraries are sweeping the nation, as are other events targeted at minors.

In an opinion piece from Fox News, Aldo Buttazoni explained that “the ‘Drag Show’ phenomenon – in which adult men dress up in scantily clad women’s clothing, gaudy makeup, and often wear female prosthetics to mimic women – has evolved past adult night clubs and forced its way into children’s spaces under the guise of ‘family-friendly’ events.”

Buttazoni said that minors attending drag shows equates to “predatory events” and cited a “family-friendly” event in a Dallas bar in 2022 where “performers … stripped and danced in front of kids, all while the parents sat back, sipped their cocktails, and handed dollar bills to their children to tip the drag queens on stage.”

Britannica explains “dragging [as a] performance whereby the intent is an undoing of gender norms through doing, or dressing, the part of the opposite sex.”

The text explains that “there are typically three basic components of doing drag.” The first is choosing a name, the second is stage performance where the performers are “not known for understatement, [and] most drag queens strive for overkill through the use of heavy makeup, ‘falsies,’ and a gender-bending technique known as ‘tucking.’ The authenticity of femininity is always undermined by a drag queen’s roughness, which often includes a vulgar stage presence and desire to shock. The third aspect of drag is premised on the belief in gender fluidity. Dragging is intended to make this fluidity visible through performance.”

Republican Rep. Chris Todd of Madison County, Tennessee explained that the state’s drag show restrictions are “common sense” ways of keeping children protected.

“Most of you in this room know exactly what this does,” Todd said in a report from Fox 17 Nashville. “You know it’s common sense. This is protecting children, first and foremost.”