Tennessee leaders sound off on transgender legislation as session inches forward

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Generally, transgender care issues in Tennessee, particularly regarding children, fall on party lines.

“While they’re children, we want them protected from some of these ultra-liberal perspectives where it’s a surgery-first decision,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said. “It’s utilizing medicines that have never been used in this way that will have lifelong negative effects for these children.”

“Any time you have a piece of legislation where you’re attacking a certain part of our Tennessee community, we’re going to fight back,” Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said, separately.

Republicans argue bills to prevent children’s transgender therapy and ban any drag show that is deemed ‘sexual in nature’ are about protection. Democrats say it’s just the latest attack on LGBTQ+ rights.

“We love these kids. I recognize that this is something that is difficult, that some of these kids go through. We want to love them, we want to get them the help they need, in terms of counseling and therapy,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said. “But let’s not make any decisions or allow decisions to be made to do something that’s irreversible.”

“Tennessee families, from one end of the state to the other, are facing a lot of challenges on a daily basis,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said, separately. “Drag shows don’t rank anywhere near the top 100 of those challenges facing Tennessee families on a daily basis.”

Johnson argued his bill isn’t meant to attack the drag community.

“It’s not a drag-show bill,” he said. “It’s a bill about saying we’re not going to have sexually explicit, adult-themed entertainment in front of kids, whether it’s someone who’s dressed in drag or not.”

Though Democrats disagree.

“It’s a real social issue,” Akbari said. “A political issue that doesn’t even address a real problem in Tennessee.”