Local gay dance club reacts to drag ban in Tennessee


Gabrielle Korein

Laveau Contraire and Debbie with a ‘D’ perform at Doggie Drag Show at NOLA on Tap March 18. New Orleans’ vibrant drag culture would be heavily restricted under the type of legislation enacted in other states like Tennessee.

Arianna D'Antonio, Senior Staff Writer

The impending drag ban in Tennessee has raised concerns for the New Orleans drag community, who are now fearing that similar laws could be passed in the city that will put their livelihoods at risk.

Drag shows are being banned in Tennessee effective April 1 due to the passing of Senate Bill 3, which prohibits “adult cabaret” performances on public property or in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.

The legislation describes these performances as featuring “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.”

Oz New Orleans, a local gay dance club featuring DJs, drag shows, and go-go dancers, was the first club on Bourbon Street to have a transgender general manager, the club’s representative, who opted to remain anonymous, said.

The representative of Oz spoke on behalf of their club community, and said that drag is a form of self-expression, which doesn’t just mean a guy putting on women’s clothes.

“Many walks of life and genders can get in drag,” they said. “It’s all about entertainment, and if it makes a person smile while they may be going through something in their personal life, it is well worth it.”

Due to Oz residing on Bourbon Street, the club contributes a lot of money to the state. Thus, the Oz representative said they don’t anticipate any legislature against drag to pass here or even be brought up.

However, the Oz representative said that while they understand the perspective of censoring drag in public due to children, banning it completely is ridiculous.

“Every Disney on Ice or play or parade has some form of drag in it. What are they going to do? Ban it all? Of course not,” they said. “We need to teach love and learn from each other.”

Zalia BeVille, owner of The AllWays Lounge and Cabaret, said she believes this legislative trend will make drag participants appreciate what they have and not take it for granted amidst the anger and sadness.

BeVille said that as a nightclub, the AllWays Lounge has a focus on patrons over the age of 21, as several of their acts are not of a prurient nature. That said, even in their venue, the artists maintain a strong focus to entertain and delight through their performance art.

BeVille said she expects certain states to follow suit with the bannings after witnessing these legislative trends in the last few years.

However, she said she prays that this trend will not incline patrons to stop attending or bring negative attitudes to drag shows since the shows are many drag artists’ main source of income.

“Many find it a challenge to rise to the occasion and keep their art form rolling,” BeVille said. “Many of the older performers, and even some of the newer ones, deal with constant persecution in some form or another, so it’s not necessarily surprising, but disheartening.”

The Pink News spoke to a Memphis-based drag queen named Bella DuBalle, who said this legislation is a “clear attempt by lawmakers to mask anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination”, one she fears could inspire further violence against the community.

“This is a movement coming from the religious right, and [it’s] feeling like somehow we’ve been dragged 54 years back in time to Stonewall again,” she said to Pink News. “The pendulum swing is so crazy.”