While out for a long walk Sunday afternoon, I dropped in on my twin brother Ian and his wife as they were getting ready to go Scottish dancing. Nancy is the talented chair of Madison Scottish Country Dancers. My tall, skinny twin in his jaunty new kilt, complete with matching knee socks, carries off the fashion very well. But as I snapped his photo, I suddenly wondered: Would my twin be doing something “illegal” in Tennessee?
Seriously. Last week, Tennessee became the first state to make it a criminal offense to stage an “adult cabaret” on public property or anywhere a child might see it. Among the no-nos are exotic or topless dancers, strippers — and here’s the part that might apply to my brother — male or female impersonators. Technically, they are liable if they are providing entertainment, since entertainment as a male or female impersonator is considered “harmful to minors.” Ian and Nancy and their troupe entertain the public frequently, including at our state Capitol and the city-owned arts center. They’ve participated in public dances to entertain audiences in other states and countries, too.
Biblically indoctrinated individuals know that Deuteronomy 22:5 orders: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination onto the Lord.” What is a man in a kilt but a man wearing a garment that today pertains to women? (Never mind that back in biblical times, men were most likely not wearing pants!)
As the New York Times reported, transgender and gender nonconforming persons are understandably afraid this law could be used against them. The Times quotes Tennessee Equality Project worker Dahron Johnson: “The language is vague enough that it leaves it in the hands of each individual jurisdiction to define what counts as a ‘male or female impersonator.’ They could say I, just going about my daily life, am an ‘impersonator.’”
The same day Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed this law, he also signed a ban on all puberty-delaying treatment or even gender-affirming medical care referrals for transgender children. Interesting that the same politicians who are saying “Trust parents” when it comes to anti-vaccination policies or vouchers for religious schools suddenly don’t trust parents and doctors to make decisions for transgender children. FFRF is tracking more than a hundred such bills.
These hysterical anti-drag bills make no sense. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is in its 15th season! My gosh, Dolly Parton famously once said it was a good thing she was born a girl, or she would have had to become a drag queen. Tennessee theatre groups are legitimately wondering whether they can put on “Hairspray” or cast men to play Mother Ginger in “The Nutcracker” — a ballet performed for a children’s audience.
How can Gov. Lee shield the eyes of minors from viewing movies like “Some Like It Hot,” “South Pacific,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Tootsie” or “Mrs. Doubtfire”? Or what about reruns from 1950s and 1960s comedy shows involving Milton Berle, Harvey Korman, Flip Wilson or Jonathan Winters dressed in “drag”? This new law is just plain off-kilter.
Is our country being dragged back into the Dark Ages? Until sanity looms, I’ll be advising my twin brother to stay out of Tennessee.