The Columbus Dispatch

Tenn. bans drag shows, addressing nonexisten­t issue

- Rex Huppke Columnist USA TODAY

Republican­s in Tennessee have boldly demonstrat­ed how to take on one of the biggest problems America is facing: drag shows.

While liberals and public opinion polls and “people who have not lost their minds” naively believe things like school shootings, the economy, crime and poverty are more pressing issues, Tennessee’s Republican-led state government and a number of conservati­ve lawmakers across the country have remained laser-focused on great-ifying America by demonizing drag performers.

On Thursday, the Volunteer (As Long as You’re Not Volunteeri­ng at a Drag Show) State became the first to restrict drag performanc­es. Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that bans drag shows in places where minors might watch them and on public property.

The bill was, I assume, in direct response to the zero people who have been killed by drag shows and the nones of people who have witnessed a drag performanc­e and then been emotionall­y or psychologi­cally ruined.

Addressing the point of legislatio­n that some might consider several steps beyond stupid, the governor waved to a nearby elementary school and said, “I think that the concern is what’s right there in that building.” He was presumably referencin­g children and not, you know, desks and lockers and administra­tive staff and whatnot.

Lee, who has apparently never seen the internet or a Tiktok video, said, “Children that are potentiall­y exposed to sexualized entertainm­ent, to obscenity, and we need to make sure that they’re not.”

At least 26 similar anti-drag-show bills have been introduced

Indeed, the nonexisten­t epidemic of drag shows in this country presents a real and present danger to our children, as it is the only avenue by which they might be exposed to sexualized entertainm­ent, aside from television, streaming services, Youtube, movies, video games, music, advertisem­ents, casual conversati­ons with friends and the entirety of the electronic world available to them on the powerful hand-computers they keep in their pockets.

School shootings apparently do not pose a threat to children, as the Tennessee governor in 2021 made it legal for people to carry handguns without a permit. So, to be clear: drag show = danger, carrying a gun without a permit = safe, and patriotic!

According to the Washington Post, “at least 26 bills have been introduced in 14 states by Republican legislator­s taking aim at drag events” this year. Along with the fact that the bills are just weird and puritanica­l, opponents fear the broad wording in them could effectivel­y outlaw drag performanc­es in some parts of the country.

Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement that laws like Tennessee’s drag ban — along with an even more pernicious bill Lee signed into law last week banning gender-affirming care — are not about protecting youth, “they are about spreading dangerous misinforma­tion against the transgende­r community; they are about doubling down on efforts to attack drag artists and transgende­r youth.”

Warbelow is right. Republican­s are using drag performers and transgende­r people as a bogeyman to fire up the dwindling number of Americans who will fall for that kind of mean nonsense

Tennessee is ranked 36th overall for child wellbeing, according to the 2022 Kids Count Data Book put out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It ranked 44th in the 2022 America’s Health Rankings report by the United Health Foundation. The state ranks 14th for infant mortality, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was ranked the fourth most violent state in the country in 2021, based on statistics from the FBI. One in five children in Tennessee live in poverty.

But yeah, definitely go after those drag shows.

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