Tennessee governor appears to have dressed in drag, an art form he wants to restrict

Tennessee governor appears to have dressed in drag, an art form he wants to restrict
Tennessee governor appears to have dressed in drag, an art form he wants to restrict

By the point Tennessee Gov. Invoice Lee confirmed Monday that he would signal a lately handed invoice criminalizing drag performances in public and in entrance of youngsters, a photograph that appears to present him dressed in drag as a highschool pupil had already began to flow into on Reddit and Twitter.

Simply earlier than midnight Saturday, a Reddit user shared an image that appears to present Lee as a highschool pupil sporting a short-skirted cheerleader’s uniform, a pearl necklace and a wig, posing on a college sports activities area subsequent to two women in males’s fits. The caption says, “Governor Invoice Lee in drag (1977 highschool yearbook).”

Gov. Invoice Lee is believed to be the particular person standing in the center, 2nd-left, in this 1977 yearbook picture. (Franklin Excessive College through Ancestry.com)

In a subsequent post, the Reddit person, who didn’t reply to a request for remark, referred to the drag bill on the governor’s desk, saying, “I’m positive it is going to be signed however, the hypocrisy wants to be poked at earlier than they arrive after Play in Nashville and even Rocky Horror at Belcourt twice a 12 months,” references to a preferred Nashville dance membership and the gender-bending musical “The Rocky Horror Image Present.”

Answering reporters’ questions Monday, Lee, a Republican, mentioned he would signal the drag invoice in addition to a separate piece of laws that might prohibit gender-affirming look after the state’s minors. He was then requested whether or not he remembers “dressing in drag in 1977” and appeared to have been proven a replica of the picture. He neither confirmed nor denied whether or not it was him in the picture.

“What a ridiculous, ridiculous query that’s,” Lee responded in an change that was recorded and shared on Twitter by The Tennessee Holler, an area information web site. “Conflating one thing like that to sexualized leisure in entrance of youngsters, which is a really severe topic.”

Lee’s press secretary, Jade Cooper Byers, didn’t verify whether or not it’s Lee in the yearbook picture. Byers mentioned in an electronic mail that “any try to conflate this severe situation with lighthearted college traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee households.”

The varsity custom Byers referred to is most certainly a powderpuff soccer sport, in which boys gown as women and vice versa throughout homecoming week. Byers didn’t reply to a follow-up query asking for clarification.

Whereas the occasion photographed in the yearbook would meet most definitions of “drag,” it will not essentially be unlawful underneath Tennessee’s newly handed drag invoice, which particularly bans “male or feminine impersonators who present leisure that appeals to a prurient curiosity” from performing in public or in entrance of youngsters.

A spokesperson for Lee’s former highschool, Franklin Excessive College in Franklin, confirmed in an electronic mail that the picture is from the college’s 1977 yearbook and “appears to be Invoice Lee.” Nonetheless, the spokesperson, Cory Mason, cautioned that there isn’t a caption to accompany the {photograph} “or every other form of identification.”

A lot of the college’s 1977 yearbook, together with the picture that appears to present Lee in drag, may also be discovered in a U.S. highschool yearbook database on Ancestry.com.

The picture emerged lower than every week after Tennessee legislators handed a invoice to restrict “grownup cabaret performances” in public or in entrance of youngsters. It defines “grownup cabaret” performers as “topless dancers, go-go dancers, unique dancers, strippers, male or feminine impersonators who present leisure that appeals to a prurient curiosity, or related entertainers, no matter whether or not or not carried out for consideration.”

Supporters of the grownup cabaret invoice, together with Lee, say laws is required to shield youngsters from publicity to inappropriate leisure. Critics say it unfairly targets an art form lengthy related to LGBTQ individuals and tradition and broadly paints all drag as obscene and sexualized.

After Lee’s remarks Monday, some drag performers criticized his aversion to evaluating the yearbook picture to a drag efficiency, calling his response “hypocritical.”

“He’s saying: ‘It’s OK for straight individuals to do it, however not the homosexual group,’” mentioned Denise Sadler, 38, who has been performing drag in Nashville for greater than 20 years. “That’s the message he’s delivering to the individuals.”

Whereas Tennessee is predicted to change into the first state to pass such a restriction on drag performances, it could quickly have firm. Republican legislators in at the least a dozen different states have launched related measures this 12 months, in accordance to an NBC Information evaluation.

The picture showing to present Lee in drag will not be the primary of his yearbook pictures to have made nationwide information. In 2019, he apologized after an picture of him dressed in a Accomplice uniform in the 1980 Auburn College yearbook emerged.

This text was initially revealed on NBCNews.com

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