- A Texas state senator and a Tennessee governor have proposed their own laws restricting drag shows.
- Both Republican leaders have previously dressed in drag — based on their bills’ definition of the word.
- They’ve argued that it’s not the same as a drag show.
A Texas state representative and Tennessee governor who have supported or proposed restrictions on drag shows in their respective states have dressed in drag themselves — if you use the bills’ own definitions.
This week, a 1977 high school photo of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wearing a dress emerged online, while a video of North Texas Rep. Nate Schatzline, skipping and dancing in a dress, popped up on Twitter and TikTok.
—Michelle (@LivingBlueTX) February 28, 2023
Both Republican leaders have pushed for restrictions on drag shows.
Schatzline authored and introduced House Bill 1266 in January, which aims to define venues that allow on-site consumption of alcohol and host drag shows as a “sexually oriented business.” The designation would make those businesses subject to certain taxes and restrictions, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Meanwhile, Lee vowed on Monday to sign an anti-drag show bill that seeks to ban “adult-oriented entertainment,” which broadly includes “male or female impersonators,” from public property and from places where minors may be present.
Based on both bills’ languages, it appears Schatzline and Lee have participated in the very act they hope to restrict and have suggested is harmful to children.
—🏴☠️ Bob Lawrence –Obama is #1 (@TrumpluvsObama) February 26, 2023
In Schatzline’s bill, a “drag performance” means a “performance in which a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”
The Tennessee bill does not include the term “drag” but suggests “male or female impersonators” as one type of entertainment that is “harmful to minors.”
Lee defended himself on Monday after an activist approached him about the high school photo and said it was “ridiculous” to compare what he did to “sexualized entertainment in front of children,” The Tennessean reported.
Lee spokesperson Jade Byers also told the local outlet that the bill aims to protect children from “obscene, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families.”
Schatzline similarly responded on Twitter that his performance was not a “sexually explicit drag show.”
“Y’all really going crazy over me wearing a dress as a joke back in school for a theatre project? Yah, that’s not a sexually explicit drag show… lol y’all will twist ANYTHING,” he tweeted on Monday.
—Nate Schatzline (@NateSchatzline) February 28, 2023
“The left wing is attacking me for some class project I did as a teenager where my buddies dared me to wear a dress,” Schatzline said in a follow-up video on Wednesday. “But we’re not going to let it distract us from the real message of what we’re trying to get done here in the Texas Legislature, which is to ban sexually explicit drag shows and preserve the innocence of the next generation.”
Bella DuBalle, a Memphis-based drag queen, previously spoke to Insider about the Tennessee bill and the rise in legislation that associates drag performances with sexually explicit acts.
“There has never once been a child who has been sexually assaulted or harmed at a drag show or a pride performance. If there had been, it would be a poster image for their campaign, we would see it everywhere,” she said. “If you want to contrast it with the absolute piles and piles of records of sexual abuse and misconduct in our churches, but we don’t try and ban people from taking their kids to church.”
Reps for Shatzline and Lee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.