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Bill looks to ban public ‘cabaret’ performances

Bonnie and Bowen Obenshain and Sandy Curtis were a few a many who attended Club Temptation last week to speak against legislation that has been proposed to target the LGBTQ+ community.

The Tennessee General Assembly is introducing a new bill known as SB3/HB9 creating offenses to those who “engage in an adult cabaret performance where it could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.” 

This comes as no shock to members of the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom feel this bill specifically targets a critical part of their identity, self expression, and First Amendment rights. 

Earlier, in the Fall semester of 2022, Tennessee Tech LGBTQ+ group, Lambda, hosted an all-age approved drag show. 

Landon Starbuck, of Nashville, Tennessee,  uploaded a recorded video claiming the performance was “not appropriate for the young audience.” 

Phil Oldham, President of TTU issued a statement stating the disapproval of the show, which upset and angered LGBTQ+ students. Lambda students have since then had to move off campus entirely to host drag events. 

This is not the only bill specifically aimed towards LGBTQ+ individuals. Bills SB1/HB1, SB3/HB9, SB5 and HB30 are being pushed on the legislators agenda. Bills SB1/HB1 and SB5/HB30 are calling to prevent doctors from giving care to minors with gender-affirming care. This would specifically affect trans and nonbinary youth. 

Since the bill’s announcement, Cookeville’s allies and LGBTQ+ community recently last week at the local alternative bar, Club Temptation, to write postcards to House Speak Cameron Sexton and Gov. Bill Lee, urging the two to not pass the legislation that many perceive to be discriminatory. 

The general consensus of the letter stated “Criminalizing public drag performances is contrary to the First Amendment and based on gross information about what drag is.” 

Many members of the community are also against banning gender-affirming healthcare, writing “All credible medical associations agree that gender affirming care saves lives.”

Upper Cumberland Pride President, Jessica Patterson, shared her feelings on the bills and her experience over the last few months when dealing with protestors of recent drag shows.

“Well, I think it’s kind of ridiculous, especially that the last two events that they protested were 18 and over events, and they keep using children as the excuse to have them (protests).” 

Many members were also shocked at how sudden these protests came to be. 

Wendy Mccown-Williams, owner of Club Temptation, questioned why drag performances  have recently come under scrutiny.

“These shows have been going on in Cookeville for,” she said. “I mean the bar’s been going for seven years now and Upper Cumberland Pride has been going for 11 years. So in 11 years, they’re just now figuring out that it’s going on in Cookeville. While I have owned the bar for seven years, there has been a local alternative bar presence for nearly two decades.”