Rachel Maddow just had a brilliant block tonight. It was entertaining, funny, and inspirational. And best yet, it showed the way forward to beat the homophobic GOP state legislatures at their game. And it has nothing to do with politics.
Earlier this year, the not-so-great state of Tennessee became the first state in the country to pass a homophobic law banning drag shows. This went over like a lead balloon in Memphis, which has a thriving gay community, as well as several bars and nightclubs that feature drag shows. The Governor gleefully signed it, but the law is temporarily blocked pending a judicial lawsuit questioning the constitutionally.
But if you’re gay, and living in Tennessee, take heart. Because you have friends in high places. Namely the entertainment industry.
In Rachel’s block, she highlighted a long time, uber popular, home grown Tennessee band that threw a charity concert to help fund the LGBTQ’s challenge to the state law. They went on stage all wearing dresses for their performance. The crowd promptly lost its collective sh*t.
Rachel went on to highlight three more headliner acts in Memphis, two of them women, who had drag queens come out on stage with them to act as backup singers. The third was a male band that brought out one of the most prominent drag queens in town to jam with them.
This is how you fight homophobia. The Tennessee legislature is not having a good month right now. First they tried to expel two Democratic lawmakers for the mortal sin of chanting with protesters in he chamber, only to have the districts vote unanimously to reinstate them to their desks. And now they pass a gay bashing law, only to have the biggest celebrities in town humiliate them by bringing drag queens up on stage for their show. Go ahead, arrest them!
Ask yourself this simple question. Who do most common people pay more attention to in the news, on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook? Local House legislators, or their favorite celebrities? And when their own legislators pass a law banning drag shows, and their favorite performers show up on stage with drag queens, it makes the legislators look like bumpkins. And they’re going to need those votes next year.
And then there’s this to consider. You can’t keep a string of drag queen bars operating profitably in Memphis, or anywhere else solely on gay patronage. Straight people go to those bars to enjoy the show, not to mock, but to enjoy the exuberance and skill. And in Colorado Springs Colorado, a 22 year old barged into Club Q and killed five people during a drag show that had almost as many straight patrons as gay patrons.
One thing I learned a long time ago. Politics. Can’t. Fix. Everything. But you know what? Social pressure, especially entertainment can make all the difference in the world. The more the rest of us normalize the LGBTQ community, the more we isolate the rockheads in the GOP legislatures for what they are. And they have to face voters next year.