Tennessee Governor Expected To Sign Drag Ban Apparently Once Wore Drag In Yearbook Photo

GOP Gov. Bill Lee has plans to criminalize public performances by "male or female impersonators" in the state.

A teenage boy wearing a short skirt, tight sweater and a long beaded necklace smiled as he stood on a playing field posing for a photo that later appeared in the 1977 Franklin High School yearbook. The black-and-white image was paired with a caption: “Hard Luck Woman.”

The subject appears to be Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), who now plans to criminalize such behavior.

A bill that amends state law against obscenity and pornography to include certain “adult cabaret” performances passed the Tennessee House and Senate last week. Lee said Monday he planned to sign it.

Gov. Bill Lee pictured in drag in his high school yearbook.
Gov. Bill Lee pictured in drag in his high school yearbook.
Franklin High School via Ancestry.com

The legislation makes it illegal for “male or female impersonators” to perform in public or any place a minor could view them. First-time offenders can be slapped with a misdemeanor charge, and any subsequent offense counts as a felony.

The yearbook photo went viral on Reddit this week after the user who posted it heard the anti-drag bill was well on its way to becoming law.

“School grounds is the key ... the law he will likely sign is against drag on public property. I’m sure it will be signed, but the hypocrisy needs to be poked at,” the user wrote.

“I’m sure minors were present!!” Tennessee state Rep. Vincent Dixie (D) commented on Twitter.

Lee reacted angrily when confronted with the image at a press conference Monday. However, he did not deny it was him in the photo.

“What a ridiculous, ridiculous question that is,” Lee said at the press conference. “Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject.”

Like actors do when they take on different roles, drag performers can present a wide range of content — not all of it suggestive.

Tennessee’s bill comes as conservatives nationwide increasingly set their sights on squashing expressions of gender and sexuality that do not conform to the traditional binary.

Critics say the legislation is also written so vague that it could go further than banning drag shows and be used as a weapon against transgender people who dress in line with their gender identity.

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