Lizzo brought out several drag performers, including Ru-Paul’s Drag Race alumni, on stage with her in Knoxville, Tennessee to protest the state’s ban on drag.
The show was the first on the second US leg of the singer’s ‘Special’ tour and saw Lizzo invite drag stars such as Aquaria, Asia O’Hara, Kandy Muse and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. She then spoke to the crowd about why she felt it important to take a stand against the drag ban.
“In light of recent and tragic events and current events, I was told by people on the internet, ‘Cancel your shows in Tennessee,’ ‘Don’t go to Tennessee,’” Lizzo said, to which the audience booed. “You don’t have to boo that person. Their reasons were valid.”
She continued: “But why would I not come to the people who need to hear this message the most? … Why would I not create a safe space in Tennessee where we can celebrate drag entertainers and celebrate our differences? And celebrate fat Black women?”
“What people are doing in Tennessee is giving hope,” the artist added. “So thank you so much for standing up for your rights, protecting each other and holding the people accountable who should be protecting us.”
Legislation came into effect earlier this month that made Tennessee the first state in the US to criminalise drag shows. The bill has made drag performances in front of children or in certain public spaces, including within 1,000 feet of a public park, school or church, illegal. Politicians in 15 other states are reportedly pushing for similar laws to be introduced.
On the same day as the anti-drag bill was passed, Tennessee House Republicans overwhelmingly passed a ban on young transgender people from receiving gender affirming healthcare, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgery. Patients currently receiving treatment would have to end it by March 2024.
“We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ family and local LGBTQIA+ orgs in this fight, not only for inclusion for our friends and family in the queer community, but for radical acceptance and empowerment for each of them.
“Drag is not a crime. Gender-affirming healthcare for all, including our youth, is a necessity.”