March 31, 2023

AWKWARD: Tennessee Gov.’s secret emerges on eve of bill outlawing drag shows

AWKWARD: Tennessee Gov.'s secret emerges on eve of bill outlawing drag shows

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Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is under fire for his stated intention to sign a bill that would make drag performances in the state illegal. However, recent reports suggest that the governor himself may have dabbled in the art form.

According to The Daily Beast, a photo has surfaced of Governor Lee dressed in drag during his college years. The photo, which has not been independently verified, shows Lee wearing a blonde wig, lipstick, and a dress.

This is reportedly Bill Lee in drag from the 1977 Franklin High yearbook

The governor’s office has not commented on the photo, but many are speculating that Lee’s stance against drag performances may be hypocritical given his past proclivities.

Lee’s office seemingly confirmed the authenticity of the photo in their response to the republication of the photo on social media, arguing that “lighthearted school traditions” can’t be “conflated” with the state is planning to ban.

“The bill specifically protects children from obscene, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families,” Governor Lee’s spokesperson said.

This revelation — and the governor’s response to it — have sparked outrage among members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, who see it as yet another example of a politician using their power to discriminate against marginalized groups while simultaneously engaging in behavior that they publicly condemn.

Many are now calling on Governor Lee to apologize for his past actions and to refuse to sign the bill that bans drag performances. They argue that drag is an important form of expression for many LGBTQ+ individuals and should be protected, rather than vilified.

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Furthermore, critics argue that Lee’s comments about drag performances are rooted in transphobia and sexism. By associating drag with “adult entertainment,” Lee is perpetuating harmful stereotypes and stigmatizing individuals who do not conform to traditional gender norms.

This type of rhetoric is particularly dangerous in a state like Tennessee, which has a long history of discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. According to a recent report by the Human Rights Campaign, Tennessee is one of the most hostile states in the country for LGBTQ+ people, with laws that restrict their rights and protections.

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According to The Daily Beast:

“Critics have slammed the bill as unconstitutional, and say its intentionally vague wording could have a chilling effect on not only drag queens, but transgender people as a whole.”

Governor Lee’s comments and alleged past behavior only serve to reinforce this hostile environment and send a message that LGBTQ+ individuals are not welcome in the state.

Those who stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community are demanding that Governor Lee take immediate action to rectify his past actions and address his harmful rhetoric.

They call on Governor Lee to issue a formal apology for his past participation in drag performances and to publicly acknowledge the harm that his comments have caused to the LGBTQ+ community.

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They are also demanding that Governor Lee work to create a more inclusive environment in Tennessee by supporting policies that protect LGBTQ+ rights and combat discrimination.

This includes supporting legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations, as well as working to repeal laws that restrict their rights.

Governor Lee should engage with the LGBTQ+ community in Tennessee and listen to their concerns and experiences. Only by understanding the challenges and injustices that they face can he begin to create meaningful change.

Original reporting by Alec Karam at The Daily Beast.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.  

Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.

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