Drag performer Bella DuBalle has gone viral after giving an impassioned and defiant speech about a bill seeking to criminalize public drag performances, which has now passed both the Tennessee House and Senate.
DuBalle evoked the Stonewall riots in her remarks.
The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous protests by members of the gay community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City.
Patrons of the Stonewall, other Village lesbian and gay bars, and neighborhood street people fought back when the police became violent. The riots are widely considered the watershed event that transformed the gay liberation movement and the twentieth-century fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States.
Drag performers and transgender people were at the forefront of the riots—tossing bricks at the police officers attacking them for existing. DuBalle reminded her audience the larger LGBTQ+ community "will fight for our liberation" and "raise our bricks high" in response to more attempts to legislate drag performances out of public spaces.
You can hear what she said in the video below.
"Tennessee has already passed [Senate Bill 3] and this next week the House will vote on it. If it passes, it will go on to the governor and regardless of whether he signs it, here in Tennessee it could still become a law."
"If this law passes, on April 1, public drag will now be criminalized. I could go to jail for 15 years for appearing outside in drag. They also seek to classify us as adult cabaret performers, so that means that we would have to get a stripping license."
"If you have one of those, you cannot also have an alcohol license, so our bar couldn't even serve liquor anymore. This is an attempt to erase drag in Tennessee. This bill will further harm trans people, who are literally just living their f**king lives."
DuBalle urged her listeners to contact their House representatives because if not, this legislation "would make public Pride illegal this year," referring to annual Pride Month celebrations.
"Now, if you don't know, we've been having public drag in Tennessee for over 50 years and Pride began to commemorate the events of Stonewall. Back in Stonewall, we weren't allowed to do drag. It was criminalized."
"And so what happened when the cops came in and tried to beat us down? We picked up them bricks and sent them packing. The original Pride was a riot and if this year we need to remind them we will fight for our liberation, we will raise our bricks high again and let them know we will not go quietly."
"I may need your help with legal fees because Mama ain't quitting. I'll get arrested. I don't care, somebody's got to be first. We'll sue the state."
"But whatever happens, we are queer people. We are very strong and we will rise."
Many praised DuBalle for speaking out and echoed her call to action.
The legislation out of Tennessee, which would, as DuBalle pointed out, prohibit "adult-oriented" entertainment from public property and restrict it to age-restricted venues, is the latest attack from Republicans who have ramped up their attacks against LGBTQ+ people and used drag shows as a scapegoat.
In addition to classifying "male and female impersonators" as adult cabaret performers, the legislation bans "adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors," as defined in Tennessee's existing obscenity laws.