Fight Back

boygenius Celebrated Pride by Protesting the Drag Ban in Tennessee

It doesn’t take a (boy)genius to remember that the first Pride was a protest. This past weekend, at the height of Pride celebrations around the world, queer supergroup boygenius played a show in Nashville, the home of the nation’s first attempt at a drag ban. To commemorate the occasion, the group played their entire set in full drag.

boygenius took the stage at the Re:SET Nashville Festival to riotous applause and introduced the crowd to their new drag personas: Queef Urban (Phoebe Bridgers), Lucille Balls (Lucy Dacus), and Shanita Tums (Julien Baker). In addition to the main band members, their backing musicians and technical support were also in drag.

At one point, Baker took up the mic to share her thoughts on the rising anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. A Tennessee native herself, Baker vented her anger with Governor Bill Lee and the anti-drag crusade of his party. “Today, I’m so grateful for my life, not because I get to stand on stage with my best friends… but because I’m content with the person that I am,” she said.

“I have a lot of anger for the people that have made me feel small and erased. And I’ve found it’s a really powerful and humiliating tool to make those people fuck off. I would like you to scream so loud that Governor Lee can hear you.” The group then led the crowd in chanting “Fuck Bill Lee.”

The legislation which Governor Lee signed into law back in March classified drag as “adult cabaret performance.” Not only did this make Tennessee the first state in the nation to outlaw public drag shows but it felonized a second offense with up to six years prison. The law is currently under a permanent injunction after a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional earlier this month.

boygenius join several other musicians who have protested the state’s anti-drag hysteria. Yo La Tengo and Jay McMurtry (son of Brokeback Mountain co-screenwriter Larry McMurtry) both performed Nashville shows in drag. Lizzo brought a stage full of drag artists to her Knoxville concert. And in March, Nashville’s Love Rising benefit concert brought celebrities and drag queens together to protest the law, with country singer Maren Morris daring lawmakers to arrest her.

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