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Critics say Tennessee's public drag show ban hurts the entire state's LGBTQ community


Yesterday, Tennessee became the first state to restrict drag shows in public spaces.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ayes, 26 - 6 nays.

BILL LEE: Senate Bill 3, having conferred in Amendment No. 1, is adopted.

SUMMERS: Republican Governor Bill Lee signed Senate Bill 3 into law shortly after it passed in the Senate.


Proponents of the law considered drag shows harmful to minors and call this legislation an effort to protect children.

SUMMERS: But parents like Mary Jo Hansson, a mother of three, aren't worried about their kids being exposed to drag. She brought hers to a rally at the statehouse last month to protest the bill. Here's what she told Nashville's NewsChannel 5.


MARY JO HANSSON: Yeah, I don't think drag artists are in any way harmful to my children. I think it's a colorful performance art.

CHANG: The way the law is written is causing concern from members of the LGBTQ+ community at large. Language within the bill restricts performances by, quote, "male or female impersonators," and trans Tennesseans are worried this bill will criminalize their everyday gender expression. Here's how Henry Seaton with the ACLU explained it to Marianna Bacallao of NPR member station WPLN.

HENRY SEATON: They don't define male and female impersonators as just drag performers. That can easily be a trans person. You know, there's the phenomenon of walking while trans, where specifically, like, trans women of color, while just existing, oftentimes get the police called on them.

SUMMERS: The ACLU plans to challenge this law if it's used to punish a drag performer or shut down family-friendly LGBTQ+ events. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
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