Hayley Kiyoko Was Told She Couldn’t Bring Drag Queens Onstage for Nashville Performance

According to a video she posted on Instagram, lesbian pop star Hayley Kiyoko was told she couldn’t bring drag queens on stage for her Nashville performance without risking legal action. Tennessee recently became the first state in the nation to pass a bill banning public drag performances. The bill was signed into law but has been put on hold until the end of May.

In a tearful video recorded moments before her performance, Kiyoko said the following while wearing her DRAG IS NOT A CRIME t-shirt:

We are in Nashville and I am very upset. I mean, I was upset, but now this is like it’s just unbelievable. I am getting ready for my show tonight and was really excited to bring out some incredible drag performances, and there’s an undercover cop in the venue and apparently my show, because it’s all ages, we can’t have drag performers at my show. So we’re trying to figure out if there’s a workaround or what the situation is, but this is fucked up. This is so fucked. I’m so sorry to my community, and I’m just devastated. I’m just devastated. This is just not right, not okay. And my heart just goes out to everyone navigating this. It’s just not okay. I love you all. Keep being yourselves.

The post also includes a video from a drag show at PlayNashville, where Kiyoko was brought up on stage with drag performers the night before her own performance, as she explains in the post’s caption.

She also wrote: “When the queens arrived it was about 10 minutes before the show. I was distraught and let them know what was communicated to us and our concerns. They showed no fear and said they wanted to continue with the show and come out on stage. So they did.”

The post features a video from the performance, in which Nashville queens LiberTea and Ivy St James appear.

Lizzo also recently brought drag queens out on stage during a Nashville performance amid the state’s drag ban.

Kiyoko truly said exactly what this all feels like in as few words as possible: “This is so fucked.” 

Anti-LGBTQ bills have a significantly negative impact on the mental health of queer youth. Kiyoko has emphasized her commitment to providing safe spaces at her shows, and the fact that her concerts are all ages means that LGBTQ youth should feel welcomed and affirmed here. Even though the bill is currently on hold, it’s unsurprising it’s already having an effect on some performances, as these laws are often confusing.

These transphobic and harmful anti-drag legislation efforts are underway in many other states across the nation, including but not limited to Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Time Magazine is tracking developments on these laws state-by-state, so you can follow the latest in your area and around the country. Support your local drag performers.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 843 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. I’m wondering if the Lizzo performance was a catalyst for them to crack down on any other artist deciding to do this from now on. They are really waisting cop resources to do shit like this. Isn’t their real crime they should be attending to.

  2. I’m disappointed Autostraddle – a basic google search on the status of TN’s drag ban would show you that its NOT in effect. I believe Hayley’s experience is real, but I’m disappointed in LGBTQ+ media omitting the important fact that this law is not in effect.

    I hope someone informs Hayley of that and I hope she sues the police department who infringed on her First Amendment rights by trying to enforce a law that’s not even in effect.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!