Human Rights Campaign Punches Back in Tennessee, Unveiling Full-Page Ad in The Tennessean and Announcing Nashville Rally Set for Thursday to Fight Gov. Lee’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislative Onslaught

by HRC Staff

Full Page Ad in Tuesday Edition of ‘The Tennessean’ Features Image of Gov. Lee Dressed in Drag, Highlighting the Hypocrisy of Tennessee’s Drag Ban Which Was Signed Into Law by the Governor Last Week

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the heels of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee enacting a pair of discriminatory bills targeting transgender youth and LGBTQ+ spaces and culture, the Human Rights Campaign — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — this week is taking the fight directly to Tennessee Gov. Lee’s doorstep: Announcing a Nashville rally set for Thursday and releasing a full-page ad in The Tennessean which features an image of the governor dressed in drag. Both the Nashville rally and the full-page ad aim to illuminate both the hypocrisy of the governor’s actions and the urgent need for Tennesseans to push back against the continued legislative assault on LGBTQ+ people.

Since 2015, Tennessee has enacted 14 anti-LGBTQ+ laws — more than any other state in the country — and is continuing to push more bills through the legislature, including HB 30 (an anti-drag bill that requires drag artists to obtain a permit before performing) and HB 878 (a bill that allows public officials to refuse to marry couples based on religious beliefs). Both bills are expected to pass both the House and the Senate in the coming weeks.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson — who will be in Nashville on Thursday for the rally — released the following statement:

“Gov. Bill Lee isn’t just focused on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation — he’s obsessed with it. He’s infatuated with it. It’s why Tennessee has enacted more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state since 2015, and why Gov. Lee last week became the very first governor in the country to sign a drag ban into law. Hypocrisy and discrimination run rich in the Tennessee of Gov. Lee — who himself formerly enjoyed dressing in drag but who is now working feverishly to prove otherwise. But what’s truly unforgivable is that Gov. Lee’s agitated focus on the LGBTQ+ community is shamelessly targeting transgender and non-binary youth, denying them access to age-appropriate, life-saving gender affirming care. This is why we took out a full-page ad in The Tennessean and why we’ll be rallying in Nashville on Thursday: Because it’s time for Gov. Lee to hear loud and clear that Tennesseans are tired of the political theater, and that discrimination and hypocrisy have no place in Tennessee.”

Last week, Gov. Lee signed into law House Bill 9 (drag performances) and House Bill 1 (gender affirming care), making Tennessee the first state ever to criminalize drag performances, and the fifth state to pass a law banning age-appropriate, best practice gender-affirming care for trans youth. Since 2015, Tennessee has enacted more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state in the country — these two bills bring the total to 14, which also includes two bathroom bans, three laws preventing transgender students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity, a law allowing discrimination by state contractors providing child welfare services paid for with taxpayer funds, curriculum censorship bills, and more. Tennessee’s attack on LGBTQ+ people has been unrelenting and has made Tennessee an increasingly difficult place for LGBTQ+ people to survive, let alone thrive.

March 9 Nashville Rally — Slay Hate: Fight Back Tennessee

Working in close collaboration with partners across Tennessee, HRC on Thursday will host “Slay Hate: Fight Back Tennessee'' — a rally set to take place at Nashville’s LGBTQ+ bar Tribe, and which will also feature Grammy nominee GAYLE, singer-songwriter and transgender rights activist Shea Diamond, as well as Chris Sanders (the Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project), and representatives from the National Women’s Law Center and the ACLU of Tennessee. HRC President Kelley Robinson will be in attendance and standing alongside activists and advocates from across Tennessee to oppose the rash of anti-LGBTQ+ laws, as well as additional bills currently snaking through the legislative process. More information on the rally can be found here.

The Facts About Drag Bans

The dangerous practice of banning LGBTQ+ events, spaces, and culture – including drag performances – is part of a large-scale attack on the LGBTQ+ community and an attempt to put LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender and non-binary people, back in the closet and labeled as dangerous.

Last year alone, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community and youth. Less than three months into 2023, HRC is already tracking more than 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. 175 of those would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.

Nearly 1 in 5 of any type of hate crime is now motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias and the last two years have been the deadliest for transgender people, especially Black transgender women, we have seen since we began tracking fatal violence against the community. Reports of violence and intimidation against LGBTQ+ people have been making news across the country – with white nationalists targeting a Pride event in Idaho and Proud Boys crashing Drag Queen story hours at local libraries to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs. Finally, anti-LGBTQ+ stigma also drives alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, but LGBTQ+ youth who have at least one accepting adult in their life were 40% less likely to attempt suicide.

The Facts About Gender Affirming Care

Every credible medical organization – representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States – calls for age-appropriate gender-affirming care for transgender and non-binary people.

  • “Transition-related” or “gender-affirming” care looks different for every transgender and non-binary person.

  • Parents, their kids, and doctors make decisions together, and no medical interventions with permanent consequences happen until a transgender person is old enough to give truly informed consent.

Transgender children are not undergoing irreversible medical changes.

  • This is a fundamental misunderstanding about what transition looks like for kids.

  • Therapists, parents and health care providers work together to determine which changes to make at a given time are in the best interest of the child.

  • Some people take medication, and some do not; some adults have surgeries, and others do not. How someone transitions is their choice, to be made with their family and their doctor.

  • In most young children, this care can be entirely social. This means:

    • New name

    • New hairstyle

    • New clothing

    • None of this care is irreversible.

Being transgender is not new.

  • Some say it can feel like being transgender is very new – but that’s because the media has been covering it more in recent months and years.

  • But transgender people have always existed and will continue to exist regardless of the bills we pass.

ALL gender-affirming care is:

  • Age-appropriate

  • Medically necessary

  • Supported by all major medical organizations

  • Made in consultation with medical and mental health professionals AND parents

And in many cases, this care is lifesaving:

  • A recent study from the Trevor Project provides data supporting this — transgender youth with access to gender-affirming hormone therapy have lower rates of depression and are at a lower risk for suicide.

For more information about the onslaught of state legislative bills being introduced in state houses across the country, or to request an interview with an HRC legislative expert, please contact

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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