Dragging the New Drag Laws


Blaise Gainey/WPLN

Britney Banks speaks to protesters outside the Tennessee state Capitol on Feb. 14, 2023, as the legislature hears testimony on two bills that would restrict the rights of LGBTQ people in the state.

There are a lot of shots currently being fired at the LGBTQ+ community. It all can be very overwhelming. There is so much misinformation that is hurting the transgender community, specifically. Take five minutes to read this and understand what is truly going on.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) made his state the first to enact a law explicitly targeting drag shows on March 2nd, as well as joining the list of GOP-led states restricting gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth.
Senate Bill 3, also known as the drag ban, makes it an offense to engage in an “adult cabaret performance” on public property or in a location “where the performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.”

Effective on April 1st, the law builds on the other 12 trans youth bans in Tennessee. These bans consist of two bathroom bans, three laws preventing transgender students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity, a law allowing discrimination by state contractors providing child welfare services paid for with taxpayer funds, curriculum censorship bills, and more.

It also expands the state’s obscenity laws to include performances that feature exotic dancers or “male or female impersonators” that provide entertainment appealing “to a prurient interest.” Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R), a sponsor of Senate bill 3, stated in November that he introduced the measure to protect children from drag shows that could be “sexual in nature.”

First-time violators may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail. Any subsequent offenses will be classified as a Class E felony, carrying a maximum six-year prison sentence.

Tennessee is now the first state to criminalize drag performances, however it is not the only state writing these laws. There are currently at least 10 other states moving to restrict transgender rights, according to The New York Times.

But Tennessee has not stopped at banning drag shows. They also attacked transgender youth healthcare. Tennessee Senate Bill 1, effective July 1, bans the prescription of hormone blockers and/or hormones as well as performing gender-affirming surgeries.

“These extremist politicians who took an oath to protect all of the people of Tennessee are telling us loud and clear that they have no plans to uphold fundamental rights or demonstrate respect for all of their constituents,” said Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “We must stand up, speak out, and take action against radical politicians before they strip more of our freedoms away.”

It is saddening to say how the suicide rate of transgender youth is already higher than the average suicide rate. Data indicates that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide, with suicidality in the LGBTQ+ community highest among transgender youth, according to an article published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence last year. With the restrictions of their rights, the it would not be surprising if their suicide rate increases tremendously.

These politicians say they care about the kids, but that is a sugar-coated lie. They only care about the children that they deem “normal.” We cannot just sit here and watch hundreds of thousands of lives being destroyed. These politics are not what we should be worried about. Our planet is facing a climate catastrophe. With the way the climate is deteriorating, there won’t be a future where kids are exposed to drag because they all will be dead. Kids are worried about getting shot at school, not about drag queens and kings. If these politicians really want to protect their children, they would fight for gun control legislation and climate-change laws, not against drag shows and gender-transitioning procedures.

At this point, you’re hopefully asking yourself, “How can I help?” Go out, advocate to your legislators, go to protests, sign petitions. Join our GSA club, which meets on Wednesdays in room D314. At the very least, check up on your LGBTQ+ friends. This affects them too. Their community is currently under fire and it’s hurting everyone. There are also national organizations you could reach out to, like the Human Rights Campaign and a petition on Change.org. Finally, you’re 18 VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! Your voice matters, so use it for good.