NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As Pride Month begins, a judge is expected to make a decision in early June as to whether Tennessee’s new law restricting some drag performances will go into effect.
However, drag performers said whether the law is ruled constitutional or not, it has had a chilling effect on the community.
“People are scared,” said Chase Brisentine, who performs in drag as Britney Banks.
Brisentine is also helping to book the roughly 29 drag performers who will be participating in Nashville Pride and said there is confusion and concern about the implications of Senate Bill 3.
“It was all supposed to scare everyone it was supposed to make people want to stop doing drag and stop entertaining,” he said.
He explained entertainers who aren’t worried about arrests or are aware the law is not enforceable at the moment are still preoccupied by potential unrest or hate at pride events.
“I feel like things like this law has made people who are against our community even louder,” Brisentine said.
Brisentine added he feels safe performing in Davidson County, but said this year he is thinking twice before accepting gigs at pride events in rural Tennessee counties.
“This year it just, it just seems scary. Honestly it does, and even for myself it does feel that way,” he said.
Republican lawmakers who supported and sponsored the legislation have repeatedly said the law is not meant to be anti-LGBTQ or meant to target drag performances.
“It’s not a drag show bill. It’s a bill about saying we’re not going to have sexually explicit, adult-themed entertainment in front of kids, whether it’s someone who’s dressed in drag or not,” said Sen. Jack Johnson (R—Franklin).
Melissa Stewart is a civil rights attorney representing the Memphis theater group suing the state over the law and said these arguments are not accurate.
“They’ve repeatedly said this straight up lie, which is that this is nothing new….we haven’t done anything new here. All we’ve done is taking existing laws, like strip club laws, obscenity laws, and just kind of expanded them to other locations,” Stewart said. “That’s a lie; it’s a lie.”
Stewart said it is possible the judge makes a decision on the law before the end of the week.
Brisentine said the law may actually have had the opposite effect on his life than some may have hoped. He said he is busier than ever and getting bigger opportunities than before the debate over this law began.
“I feel like for there’s a lot of us though, they’re like we’re just gonna do it more, and I mean, it’s made us more popular,” Brisentine said.
Some pride events, like Franklin Pride, have decided to not include drag performances after citizens complained that the performances are inappropriate for children.