Ban On Drag Performances Could Prevent Broadway Tours From Coming To Tennessee

A second bill passed banning gender-affirming care for youth, under the direction and supervision of their physician - in another attack against the LGBTQ+ community.

By: Feb. 27, 2023

Tennessee could soon be the next state unable to host tours (or licensed productions) of a number of Broadway shows following legislation that will target drag performers and the transgender community.

House Bill 9 "creates an offense for a person who engages in an adult cabaret performance on public property or in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult."

House Bill 9 would ban many drag performances from taking place on any public property in the state, as well as in any location where people under 18 could be present.

Critics have argued that the law is too vague and could have unintended consequences.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said that the bill was about protecting children in the same way that movies are regulated. Some have questioned whether the law might be applied to venues such as the Chattanooga Convention Center, which hosted an adult burlesque and drag show.

The Tivoli Theatre Foundation is set to present Chicago beginning tomorrow through March 2nd. In the production (spoiler alert) it is revealed late in the show that the actor playing Mary Sunshine is in fact a man. The vague bill could essentially make presenting this production and productions like it in the future illegal.

The foundation earlier this month presented the touring version of Lincoln Center Theater's My Fair Lady. This production features a number of performers in drag during the song "I'm Getting Married In The Morning."

In a letter to the editor published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, one patron wrote she was "blindsided" by the number. "One man was in a corset, socks and shoes, and a wedding veil only. Another was wearing only a girl's lacy, one-piece lingerie. I was horrified that my little angel was seeing something for the first time that someone that age should never see! It was pornography!"

A representative for the Broadway Series said My Fair Lady "garnered more positive feedback than any other performance in recent years."

The Human Rights campaign released a statement regarding the bill, writing "By passing House Bill 9, the Tennessee legislature has done nothing but spread hate, misinformation, and extremism. Drag is a longstanding, celebratory form of entertainment and a meaningful source of employment for many across the state. Yet, rather than focus on actual policy issues facing Tennesseans, politicians would rather spend their time and effort misconstruing age-appropriate performances at a library to pass as many anti-LGBTQ+ bills as they can. Dangerous rhetoric like this has real consequences - prejudiced inspired bills only rile up an extremist base and normalize violence against the LGBTQ+ community, especially transgender and nonbinary people. We urge Governor Lee to veto this discriminatory bill."

Tennessee also passed House Bill 1, an anti-LGBTQ+ bill that would ban age-appropriate, medically necessary care to transgender youth under the age of 18.

Both bills will now be sent to Governor Lee's desk for his signature.

In regards to House Bill 1, the Human Rights Campaign stated "This attempt by radical politicians in Tennessee to ban gender-affirming care is only the latest effort in their war against the LGBTQ+ community, especially against transgender kids. This is one of two discriminatory bills making its way toward Governor Lee's desk this week alone, alongside a bill that would ban drag performances. The state has not only introduced more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation than any other state in this country, but attacks on the fundamental rights of thousands of LGBTQ+ people in Tennessee have been unrelenting for nearly a decade. These extremist lawmakers have intentionally made life harder and more dangerous for trans kids. Gender affirming care is age-appropriate, life-saving, medically necessary care that is only provided after the consent of parents and doctors. We urge Governor Lee not to sign this harmful bill into law."

BroadwayWorld stands with the LGBTQ+ community of Tennessee and will continue to follow this story.