Earlier this month, the Tennessee Senate confirmed an anti-trans bill defining gender as anatomy at birth is moving through state legislature. For many, this did not come as a shock following Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s ratification of two controversial laws in February — one prohibiting drag queens from performing in public spaces, and the other banning gender-affirming care for minors.
Gov. Lee’s legislation will see Tennessee become the first state to criminalise drag queens and performers. The bill prohibits drag shows from taking place in front of children and in specific public locations, including within 1000 feet of a school, park, or church.
However, the policy’s vague language defining drag performers as "male or female impersonators" has worried many LGBTQ+ advocates. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee argues this ambiguity means the law could impact not just drag queens but queer people too —“it’s a subtle and sinister way to further criminalize being trans," their spokesperson says. Amidst criticism State Representative Jack Johnson has vehemently defended the bill as a measure of "protection", saying "[it’s] protecting kids and families and parents who want to be able to take their kids to public places. We're not attacking or targeting anyone.”
Even more insidiously, the legislature peddled by Tennessee officials will see trans youth prohibited from receiving gender-affirming healthcare, including hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and surgery. Many are furious with this attempt to eradicate transgender communities, given that treatment in the state is already stringently regulated and given only after medical due diligence.
Denying life-saving care to trans youth is just the latest in the slew of anti-LGTBQ+ policies being rolled out across the US. Since Tennessee’s new laws were announced, many other states have followed suit, with Florida proposing a bill on March 3 allowing the court to take emergency custody of children who receive gender-affirming care if their parents so wish, or if the custodial parent receives such treatment themselves.
With over half of the country’s states having anti-trans legislation on the table, it seems that the US is facing no less than an epidemic — many TikTok users are even claiming that the American LGBTQ+ community is at the 7th stage of the ‘10 stages of genocide’ model. Stage 7, “preparation”, notes “the use of euphemisms by the perpetrator group to cloak intention,” and a “sudden increase in inflammatory rhetoric and hate propaganda with the objective of creating fear of the other group.” Many are citing a statement made last week by the US’ Conservative Political Action Conference as an example of this, where it was claimed that “transgenderism should be eradicated from public life entirely, the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.”
Allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community from across the globe have decried the US and Tennessee’s vilification of queer people, and protests, petitions, and campaigns have taken place internationally. March 20 will see Nashville, Tennessee, host the Love Rising benefit, where a chorus of famous faces will perform to support organizations elevating LGBTQ+ rights.
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