Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, is facing accusations of hypocrisy after a photo of him dressed in drag went viral days after the politician confirmed that he would sign legislation criminalizing drag performances.
Lee, a Republican, announced on Monday that he plans to sign a bill passed previously by his state’s legislature that prohibits drag in public and in front of children. Lee also said he would sign a bill that bans gender-affirming care for Tennessee minors.
That announcement came two days after a picture of Lee dressed in drag during his high school days went viral on Reddit. In the 1977 picture, a young Lee wears a wig, a cheerleader’s uniform and a pearl necklace. The high school yearbook photo is captioned: “Hard Luck Woman”.
The Reddit user who created the original post noted that they were motivated to share it given the governor’s hypocrisy, according to NBC News.
“I’m sure [the bill] will be signed but, the hypocrisy needs to be poked at before they come after Play in Nashville or even Rocky Horror at Belcourt twice a year,” wrote the user, referring to a Nashville nightclub and the musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Lee has not confirmed that the newly seen photo is of him.
But Lee’s office has responded to questions about whether it is hypocritical to sign legislation banning drag performances when the governor has dressed in drag himself.
In a statement to the Daily Beast, Lee’s office said that “lighthearted school traditions” as seen in the yearbook photo should not be “conflated” with what the bill is banning. A spokesperson claimed that the comparison was “dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families” without elaborating on how that was so.
In a press conference on Monday, Lee was asked if he remembered “dressing in drag in 1977” and if drag was “only illegal when gay people do it”.