Music Stars defy Anti-Drag Laws in the US through their performances

Tuesday 16 May 2023

Stars like Lizzo and Orville Peck have taken a stand against anti-drag laws in the United States, using their music platforms to fight back. Recently, at a Lizzo concert in Knoxville, Tennessee, drag performer Britney Banks had a memorable experience when she and a group of fellow performers were invited on stage to join Lizzo for a defiant performance of her song "Everybody's Gay." Banks described the energy in the arena as unlike anything she had ever experienced before.

Lizzo addressed the crowd and spoke candidly about the significance of the moment, defying recent tragic events and the prevailing sentiment against LGBTQ+ communities in Tennessee. She questioned why she wouldn't come to the people who needed to hear her message the most and emphasized the importance of creating a safe space in Tennessee to celebrate drag entertainers. Lizzo's actions reflect a growing trend among major music stars in Tennessee who are using their influence to raise awareness and support for the drag and LGBTQ+ community, especially in response to discriminatory legislation targeting transgender individuals and drag performers.

Although Tennessee's legislation restricting "adult cabarets" has been temporarily blocked, artists such as Hayley Kiyoko, Orville Peck, and Kelsea Ballerini have dedicated parts of their performances to advocate against anti-drag and anti-trans sentiments prevalent in the southern United States. Kiyoko invited two drag queens from Nashville's Play Dance Bar to join her on stage, despite warnings from local law enforcement. LiberTea and Ivy St James courageously appeared alongside Kiyoko without incident. Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, praised artists like Lizzo for their ability to reach audiences and shed light on the discriminatory laws, providing hope and a path forward for fighting against authoritarian legislation.

During the CMT awards, Kelsea Ballerini used her national platform to invite drag performers, including Manila Luzon and Olivia Lux, to join her on stage. Ballerini expressed her support by stating, "If you go down, I'm going down too," referencing her song of the same name. Similarly, Orville Peck regularly invites drag performers to join him on stage during his shows in the south, recognizing the importance of drag in gay culture and civil rights. Peck's collaboration with Nashville-based drag performer Alexia Noelle Paris demonstrated the positive reception from the crowd and the opportunity to dispel misconceptions about drag as dangerous or fearful.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of Glaad, highlighted the alarming rise of anti-drag legislation, with 36 separate pieces of such legislation emerging in 16 states within the past year alone. Ellis emphasized the impact of media representation and the influence of entertainers on people's attitudes and decisions across various aspects of society.

For Britney Banks, her involvement with the non-profit organization Inclusion Tennessee led to her moment on stage with Lizzo, garnering global headlines. Banks couldn't stay silent anymore, having performed in drag for the past six years. After participating in Nashville's Love Rising benefit show, which drew 10,000 attendees in response to the discriminatory law, Lizzo's team reached out to find a way for the star to make a statement. The collaboration involved coordinating with other drag queens and rehearsing with Lizzo's choreographer. Banks, currently in Los Angeles preparing a fundraising show for Inclusion Tennessee, expressed her gratitude for the whirlwind experience.

Kate Ellis acknowledged the powerful implications of artists representing the drag and LGBTQ+ community from coast to coast, delivering a strong message to youth everywhere that they are beautiful and they belong, regardless of who they are.