As a protest of Tennessee’s new draconian drag law, Yo La Tengo performed in drag at their concert in Nashville. The band members performed the remainder of the night in drag after beginning with their standard set. Ira Kaplan donned makeup, a red dress, and a long haired black wig. In a statement, they refused to address the legislation during the performance; declaring instead that what they did last night needed no additional explanation.
Bill Lee, the governor of Tennessee, signed the bill in February, prompting outrage across the nation. Despite not outlawing drag events, the measure restricts their locations. According to activists it enables disingenuous interpretations by conservatives who would view any drag show as obscenity.
Stella Yarbrough, the legal director of the ACLU’s Tennessee chapter, said in a statement that the organization is worried that government officials could easily misuse this legislation to censor people based on their own subjective views of what they deem appropriate. They could stifle protected free speech and send a message to LGBTQ citizens that they are not welcome in the state.
The legislation’s limitations on “male and female impersonators” were aligned with a broader assault on LGBT rights. Governor Lee approved it concurrently with a measure banning gender affirming medical care for transgender youth.
Several musicians will stage the Love Rising benefit concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena in protest of the law. On the lineup are Brittany Howard, Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, Jason Isbell, Hayley Williams, and Julien Baker. Via a collaboration with the Looking Out Foundation, which is also accepting donations, the money raised will benefit the Tennessee Equality Project, Inclusion Tennessee, OUTMemphis, and the Tennessee Pride Chamber. Tennessee people are urged to register to vote by the Tennessee Equality Project.