A small town in Sumner County, Tenn., is attempting to prohibit drag shows by changing its city code and zoning ordinances by adding “female impersonators” to its definition of “adult cabaret.” It’s a move that has many people scratching their heads, and local LGBT leaders are concerned about the effect the ordinance could have.
The proposed ordinance passed on first reading on Sept. 5, 2017. You may also wish to see the Council meeting video recording where the ordinance is brought up at 9:42 in the video, however there was no discussion on the ordinance. A reference was made that there was “much discussion” at a work study meeting. A vote was taken and it passed.
“TEP opposes the ordinance on First Amendment grounds and because government has no business passing ordinances that restrict gender,” said Christopher Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project. “It sends a chilling message to the LGBT community.”
The drag show in question is put on by Kyle & Raymond Guillermo Jr. with Elite Productions, and is, by all standards, a typical drag show. Raymond is also one of the performers. The restaurant and bar in question, Envy, 111 Main St., Portland, Tenn., is in fact a straight establishment. The drag shows are in a public place open to 18 and over, and are held after the restaurant closes. The show has a $10 cover charge. Kyle and Ray rent the space after the restaurant closes. The restaurant also rents out for a karaoke night, and other private parties.
The first drag show at the bar was held on Aug. 12, 2017. When word spread on Facebook, the negative response from some in the community was swift.
Raymond said in a video message on Facebook that he was “blown away” by the negative response and was very disappointed. Guillermo said it was entertainment and art, and was far from being an “adult show” that many in the community had said it was.
“Envy Bar and Envy nails [said they] don’t discriminate or [have] any kind of hatred against any gender we have come along [the] way, all it’s just entertainment,” said BebeThanh Truc, one of the restaurant’s owners, in a posting on Facebook.
“First of all, special thank you to BebeThanh Truc spreading love and not hate. I wanted to share something with everyone. We don’t put these shows on to force anyone to come or to force homosexuality on anyone. We put these shows on cause we enjoying doing them and our people love entertaining a crowd. It’s called entertainment,” Guillermo wrote on Facebook in response to some of the negative posts.
A support rally will be held at the Portland City Hall on Sept. 18 at 4:30 pm.