Hayley Kiyoko performs in Nashville with drag queens despite police warnings

Thomas Gravely (he/him), Staff Writer

On May 1, 2023, queer singer Hayley Kiyoko was preparing for her show in Nashville, Tennessee in which she would be joined by drag queens LiberTea and Ivy St James in an act of defiance against the recent crackdown on drag performances in the state. Shortly before the show, she was pulled aside by local law enforcement, warning her that having the queens on her stage could result in legal action.

When the queens arrived at the venue, Kiyoko discussed the situation with them. In her Instagram post released shortly after the show, she said, “They showed no fear and said they wanted to continue with the show and come out on stage. So they did.” In a monumental act of resistance, Kiyoko and her drag queens performed anyway, putting on a stunning show for her audience in spite of the possible consequences.

“I never want to put anyone in a position to be at risk or in danger in any way,” said Kiyoko. “But also where is the line of being silenced? How do we navigate these absurd threats and laws against our community?” This event happened soon after the signing of a Tennessee bill that would have classified drag performances as a misdemeanor that could result in jail time. Even though the bill was blocked in federal court, it has still sparked outrage among queer Americans at its blatant suppression of free expression.

The bill comes in a long line of recent anti-LGBTQ bills that have been passed all across the United States, most notably restricting healthcare, athletics, and single-sex facilities for transgender youth, as well as curriculum restrictions and bans relating to LGBTQ subjects. 

According to the National Institute of Health, 82% of transgender people have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide. Transitioning, possible with gender-affirming care, is the only treatment for the type of body dysphoria transgender people experience. Removing access to this treatment will only make these rates worse. These bills are killing children, and represent a conservative shift in legislation that could threaten the very existence of queer people in America.

Hayley Kiyoko’s performance has come at a critical time when the safety of queer youth in the United States is in question. Even in times as dark and uncertain as these, Kiyoko’s courage and resistance shows that no matter what laws are passed, conservative lawmakers won’t take away queer people’s human right to express themselves. “We will not be silenced. We will find ways to continue to be our authentic selves, no matter what,” Kiyoko concluded in her Instagram post. “We will not give up. No matter how hard they make it. I love you all so much.”