Human Rights Campaign Slams Governor Lee for Signing Anti-Drag Bill and Gender Affirming Care Ban into Law; TN Becomes First State to Criminalize Drag

by HRC Staff

Since 2015, Tennessee Has Enacted More Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws Than Any Other State in the Country

Nashville, Tennessee – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) condemned Tennessee Governor Lee for signing two anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law. House Bill 9 bans many drag performances from taking place on any public property in the state, as well as in any location where people under 18 could be present. House Bill 1 bans age appropriate, medically necessary care to transgender youth under the age of 18.

Tennessee is now the first state ever to criminalize drag performances, and the fifth state to have passed 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, including 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.

Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow released the following statement on these discriminatory bills:

“Shame on Governor Lee and the extremist legislators responsible for these discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Neither of these laws are about protecting youth - they are about spreading dangerous misinformation against the transgender community; they are about doubling down on efforts to attack drag artists and transgender youth. Gender affirming care is age-appropriate, medically necessary care that is only provided in consultation with doctors and the consent of parents. And drag is a longstanding, celebratory form of entertainment and a meaningful source of employment for many across the state.
"These extremist politicians who took an oath to protect all of the people of Tennessee are telling us loud and clear that they have no plans to uphold fundamental rights or demonstrate respect for all of their constituents. We must stand up, speak out, and take action against radical politicians before they strip more of our freedoms away.”


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 two months into 2023, HRC is already tracking 340 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. 150 of those would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date. Of the approximately 90 bills filed this year that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access best practice, medically necessary care, SB 613 is among the most egregious.

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.


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.

  • And very few transgender people change their mind.

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.

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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