Hayley Kiyoko, a singer and dancer, alleged that an “undercover cop” warned her she would be liable if she performed with drag queens at a May 1 show in Nashville, which was open to all ages.
Kiyoko posted an emotional response on social media immediately following the interaction, which she said occurred during a soundcheck the day of the show.
“This is like, it’s just unbelievable,” she said through choked back tears. “There’s an undercover cop at the venue and apparently my show, because it’s all ages, we can’t have drag performers at the show.”
The warning, which a Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson told the Tennessee Lookout it had no role in, came despite a recent stay of a newly passed Tennessee law prohibiting certain types of drag performances.
The court ruling temporarily blocking the law asserted the state failed to make a compelling case for the law, which bans “adult cabaret entertainment” on public property or where it could be viewed by a minor. Most have referred to the law as a drag show ban.
Kiyoko’s Instagram response to the incident at her show highlights confusion over the law and whether it can be enforced.
Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders told the Tennessee Lookout that because Tennessee is so “notorious” in its anti-LGBTQ legislation, the confusion is not surprising.
“The ambiguity of the law lends itself to this,” he said.
Kiyoko ultimately ignored the alleged warnings, bringing multiple drag performers on stage during her performance. But the incident rattled her nonetheless.
“I never want to put anyone in a position to be at risk or in danger in any way. But also where is the line of being silenced? How do we navigate these absurd threats and laws against our community? I find pride in making sure my concerts are safe places for ALL,” she wrote on Instagram with her video.
“How can I do that if we aren’t allowed to be ourselves, especially at a predominantly queer concert? We deserve to have a safe space to be ourselves while we navigate the evil that is threatening our own existence.”
The drag show ban issue is part of a broader conservative effort in numerous states, particularly in the South. Tennessee was the first state to implement a ban, but other efforts have followed.
Florida lawmakers recently approved a similar ban and, according to the Guardian, at least 32 bills have been filed since the beginning of this year targeting drag shows, including in Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.