MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Some drag shows could soon be illegal in Tennessee after a proposed bill aims to limit where these shows are allowed to take place.
The proposal is one of the first pieces of legislation filed for the upcoming session which begins in January and is being met with pushback from the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.
Jenne Dunn, a trans woman and an advocate for the trans community, told us it’s not a surprise that the state wants to ban drag shows, but for her, this is an outrage.
“It’s just one more thing, it’s just one more thing that is a direct act of hate towards the community, toward drag, toward trans,” Dunn said.
She says this bill is completely out of line.
“It’s a performance. They are performers doing a performance for entertainment. That’s it,” she said.
Senate Bill 3, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson of Jackson, bans “adult cabaret performances” in public places or around children. That category includes “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest.”
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Sen. Johnson says he is not trying to ban drag and says the bill focuses on sexually explicit acts in public.
“It’s like they say about pornography, you know it when you see it,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to ban a theater company from doing a production of Mrs. Doubtfire in a public park. I think most people have seen that movie and know Robin Williams was dressing up as a woman. We don’t have an issue with that.”
But Dunn says this is a stigma and stereotype that simply is not true.
“It’s no more than you taking your child to the circus and them watching a performance, or if you’re on the side of the street and you see mimes doing their thing. Same thing. It’s just a performance. A form of art. That’s all it is,” she said.
Dunn says taking away drag shows would strip some people of their livelihood, and believes that’s an infringement of rights. But, she says, the LGBTQ+ community also refuses to be silenced.
“What they fail to realize is, even if they put that law into place, we’re not going away. The community’s not going away. Drag shows aren’t going to stop,” she said.
If passed, the first offense will be a misdemeanor, and a second offense would be a felony, which could be punishable with up to six years in prison.
It will be discussed when the session begins in January.