Tennia governor promises to sign anti-hauling bill as photo surfaces

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Lee says it would be “ridiculous” to confuse a recently surfaced yearbook photo of high school women’s clothing to drag shows currently under attack in Tennessee and other GOP-led states.

Lee told reporters this week that he plans to sign legislation that would severely restrict drag shows, banning “adult cabaret entertainment” that is “harmful to minors” from public property or locations where children might see the performance.

The bill does not specifically include the words “drag show,” but expands the definition of adult cabaret to include “male or female impersonators,” as well as topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers and strippers.

On Monday, Lee was fielding questions from reporters about the legislation and other anti-LGBTQ bills when an activist asked him if he remembered “dressing heavily in 1977.”

Lee was shown a photo showing the governor as a high school senior dressed in women’s clothing that was published in the 1977 Franklin High School yearbook. The photo was first posted on Reddit over the weekend.

“What a ridiculous question,” said Lee, who was visibly angry. “Confusing something like that with sexual entertainment in front of children, that’s a very serious question.”

When asked about specific examples of inappropriate shows that took place in front of children, Lee pointed to the school building near where he was speaking to reporters.

“I think the concern is right there in that building,” Lee said. “Children who are potentially exposed to sexual entertainment, to vulgarity and we need to make sure they are not.”

This is now the second time a photo of Lee in a yearbook has caused controversy. In 2018, Lee said he regretted wearing a Confederate uniform during an “Old South” party after confirming there was a photo of him doing so in Auburn University’s 1980 yearbook.

Meanwhile, Lee also confirmed that he plans to sign legislation that would ban most gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

The GOP-dominated Statehouse finished advancing the legislation last week, where it headed to Lee’s desk. The anti-trafficking bill is expected to clear the Legislature this week.

Drag does not usually involve nudity or stripping, which are more common in burlesque, a separate form of entertainment. Sexually explicit and profane language is common in shows intended for mature audiences. These routines can consist of stand-up comedy that can be raucous — or it can pale in comparison to some stand-up comedians.

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