Republican Gov. Bill Lee says it would be “ridiculous” to conflate a recently surfaced yearbook photo of him wearing women’s clothing at a powder puff high school game to drag show performances for children currently under debate in Tennessee and other GOP-led states.
Lee told reporters this week that he plans to sign legislation that would severely limit where drag performances can take place by banning “adult cabaret entertainment” that is “harmful to minors” from public property or locations where children might see the performance.
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The bill does not explicitly include the words “drag show,” but it does expand the definition of adult cabaret to include “male or female impersonators,” as well as topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, and strippers.
On Monday, Lee was fielding questions from reporters about the legislation when an activist asked him if he remembered “dressing up in drag in 1977.”
Lee was presented with a photo that showed the governor as a high school senior dressed in women’s clothing that was published in the Franklin High School 1977 yearbook. The photo was first posted on Reddit over the weekend, and shows Lee dressed in cheerleading gear at his high school powder puff football game.
“What a ridiculous question that is,” said Lee, who was visibly angry. “Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious question.”
Take a look —
Looks like my lovely governer from Tennessee Mr. Bill Lee used to fancy a little bit of drag himself, but now he wants to ban it. pic.twitter.com/d8iOIxg95i
— 🥀_Imposter_🥀 (@Imposter_Edits) February 28, 2023
3/1/2023- Governor Bill Lee's support of a bill that would effectively ban drag queens in the state of Tennessee was complicated when a photo from his high school yearbook surfaced showing the young Bill Lee dressed- you guessed it- in drag! https://t.co/AD1gLue08p pic.twitter.com/5wgvnx15Th
— Clay Bennett (@BennettCartoons) February 28, 2023
When asked specific examples of inappropriate drag shows taking place in front of children, Lee pointed to the school building close to where he was talking to reporters.
“I think the concern is right there in that building,” Lee said. “Children that are potentially exposed to sexualized entertainment, to obscenity, and we need to make sure that they’re not.”
This is now the second time a yearbook photo of Lee has sparked media outrage. In 2018, Lee said he regretted wearing a Confederate Army uniform during an “Old South” party after confirming there was a photo of him doing so in Auburn University’s 1980 yearbook.
Meanwhile, Lee also confirmed that he plans on signing legislation banning medical transitioning for most children.
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The GOP-dominated Statehouse finished advancing the legislation last week, where it’s headed to Lee’s desk. The bill is expected to clear the Legislature this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.