By the point Tennessee Gov. Invoice Lee confirmed Monday that he would signal a lately handed regulation criminalizing drag performances in public and in entrance of kids, a photograph of him as a highschool scholar wearing drag was already circulating appears to point out Reddit and Twitter.
Simply earlier than midnight Saturday, a Reddit consumer shared a picture that seems to point out Lee as a highschool scholar, carrying a short-skirt cheerleading uniform, a pearl necklace and a wig, posing subsequent to 2 ladies in males’s fits on a faculty athletic subject. The caption reads, “Governor Invoice Lee in Drag (1977 Excessive College Yearbook)”.
Governor Invoice Lee is believed to be the individual standing middle, 2nd left, on this 1977 yearbook picture. Franklin Excessive College by way of Ancestry.com
In a subsequent put up, the Reddit consumer, who didn’t reply to a request for remark, referred to the drag invoice on the governor’s desk, saying, “I’m certain it’ll be signed, however the hypocrisy must be nudged earlier than they arrive.” twice a yr after Play in Nashville and even Rocky Horror at Belcourt,” references a well-liked Nashville dance membership and the gender-biased musical The Rocky Horror Image Present.
In response to reporters’ questions Monday, Republican Lee mentioned he would signal the drag invoice along with a separate regulation that may ban the state’s gender-affirming childcare. He was then requested if he remembered “wearing drag in 1977” and appeared to have been proven a replica of the picture. He has neither confirmed nor denied whether or not it was him within the image.
“What a ridiculous, ridiculous query that’s,” Lee replied in an trade recorded by The Tennessee Holler, a neighborhood information web site, and shared on Twitter. “To equate one thing like this with sexualized leisure in entrance of kids is a really critical subject.”
Lee’s publicist, Jade Cooper Byers, didn’t verify whether or not the yearbook picture is of Lee. Byers mentioned in an electronic mail that “any try and relate this critical subject to light-hearted college traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee households.”
The college custom that Byers was referring to is most probably a powder puff soccer sport the place boys gown up as ladies throughout homecoming week and vice versa. Byers didn’t reply to a follow-up query asking for clarification.
Whereas the occasion photographed within the yearbook would meet most definitions of “drag,” it might not essentially be unlawful underneath Tennessee’s lately enacted drag statute, which particularly prohibits “male or feminine impersonators offering leisure that appeals to a lustful curiosity.” , performing in public or in entrance of kids.
A spokesman for Lee’s former highschool, Franklin Excessive College in Franklin, confirmed in an electronic mail that the image is from the college’s 1977 yearbook and “seems to be Invoice Lee.” Nevertheless, the spokesperson, Cory Mason, warned that there isn’t a caption accompanying the picture “or every other type of identification”.
A lot of the college’s 1977 yearbook, together with the picture that seems to point out Lee in a gown, will also be present in a US highschool yearbook database on Ancestry.com.
The image was taken lower than per week after the Tennessee legislature handed laws proscribing “grownup cabaret performances” in public or in entrance of kids. 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 lustful curiosity, or comparable entertainers, whether or not or not they oppose.” be listed or not.”
Supporters of the grownup cabaret regulation, together with Lee, say legal guidelines are wanted to guard youngsters from inappropriate leisure. Critics say it unfairly targets an artwork type lengthy related to LGBTQ individuals and tradition, and portrays all drag as obscene and sexualized.
Following Lee’s feedback Monday, some drag performers criticized his reluctance to match the yearbook picture to a drag efficiency, calling his response “hypocritic.”
“He says, ‘It’s okay for straight guys, however not for the homosexual neighborhood,’” mentioned Denise Sadler, 38, who has been performing drag in Nashville for greater than 20 years. “That’s the message he brings to the individuals.”
Whereas Tennessee is predicted to develop into the primary state to enact such a restriction on drag performances, there might be firm quickly. Republican lawmakers in no less than a dozen different states launched comparable measures this yr, based on an evaluation by NBC Information.
The image that Lee seems to be displaying in drag isn’t the primary of his yearbook photographs to make nationwide headlines. In 2019, he apologized after an image of him in a Accomplice uniform surfaced in Auburn College’s 1980 yearbook.