Town Changes City Code To Ban Drag Performances: Shakespeare Must Be Offensive, Too?

Envy Bar in Portland, Tennessee

A little town called Portland, Tennesse has suddenly taken the spotlight for trying to outlaw drag shows and now drag shows are the top stories that come up when you search the town on Google. Maybe that’s karma? They were known for much of their history for strawberries, as the “Strawberry Capitol[sic]” of Tennessee but for now, it may also be for an aversion to female impersonation.

Just 30 minutes north of Nashville and “within a day’s drive of about 50 percent of all the U. S. population,” the town website prides itself on “southern hospitality and hometown values.” That hospitality doesn’t extend to drag queens though, apparently.

“Portland, Tennessee may soon be a little less fabulous, as city council members are trying to outlaw drag shows,” tweeted Logo TV

The City Board of Alderman is trying to ban drag shows in parts of the city by changing the code with an ordinance that changes the definition of “Adult Cabaret,” to include drag performances. The City planner believes drag performers belong in an industrial zoning district, rather than a commercial one.

From News Channel 5:

“A Sumner County city council has tried to outlaw drag shows by changing a city code, but some LGBTQ community members have already planned to rally against the proposal.”

Elite Drag Star Productions held a drag show on August 12th for the first time at Envy Bar & Restaurant on Main Street. Elite’s owner reportedly believes the city council responded to this performance days later with the anti-drag ordinance. The drag performers do not take off any clothes, so labeling them as cabaret is not accurate. You’re likely to see lip syncing, not nudity.

Elite Productions rented out the bar after it closed, charging a cover fee, which means those opposed to drag performances would have to go out of their way and offer up the money to see what was going on in the first place. The first performance was, however, ” a major success,” according to Elite owner Kyle Guillermo, selling out on 12th and September 9th.

“Shortly after that, we received hate mail on Facebook,” said Guillermo. “People are trying to get us out of Portland.”

Raymond Guillermo, owner, performer, and father of four, contested the idea that their performance is “adult cabaret.” On the Envy Bar & Restaurant Facebook page, he appeared in a video September 1st, saying “There are plenty of LGBTQ members in that community that are scared to come out -that are scared to be who they are -that are scared to come forward.” Guillermo says he just wants to create a place for those people to feel safe, laugh, and be entertained, which in turn will bring people to Portland. The bar owners refuse to discriminate and have been boycotted by some in the town, according to Guillermo.

There will be another reading of the ordinance on Monday the 18th at Portland City Hall at 6:30. A rally is planned to support the performers at 4:30 in front of the building.

It’s interesting to note that by the new city ordinance, performances such as Shakespeare’s 12th Night couldn’t be legally performed either.

Or Mrs. Doubtfire, The Bird Cage, or any number of other productions.

As one Twitter user put it, “Time to bring Drag Con to Portland, Tennessee.”

The executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, Chris Sanders, made a statement about the town’s stance on drag performances:

“This ordinance raises First Amendment questions because of the way it limits artistic expression, equal protection questions because of the way it regulates gender, and it creates a bad climate for business through over-regulation. I think the Board of Aldermen has an opportunity to press the pause button before they invite legal trouble and national scorn,” said Sanders.

For more, see the video below from News Channel 5:


Featured image via YouTube

About Matthew Silvan 283 Articles

Matthew Silvan is a gay man from the American South who has spent years fighting against the scapegoating and demonization imposed on the LGBT community by Republicans and religious hypocrites and zealots. His writing reflects the constant struggle to overcome the inequality and discrimination still rampant in America. He is an advocate for diversity and progress, with a passion for nature and preserving the environment, who also tends to approach things in a lighthearted way despite it all.

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