Local drag performer speaks out on anti-drag bill


Diana Tunnel is a local drag queen who performs and hosts several drag shows in Murray. (Photo courtesy of Diana Tunnel)

Raleigh Hightower, Lifestyle Editor

Senate Bill 115 was introduced into the Kentucky General Assembly on Feb. 10. The bill, which is aimed at “adult-oriented businesses,” would place severe limitations on where drag performances can take place.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Tichenor (R- Oldham County) introduced the bill as an attempt to keep “adult-oriented performances” 1,000 feet away from places where children might be, such as schools, churches and parks.

Murray drag performer and Graves County native Diana Tunnel said this bill could have devastating effects on the local drag community.

“This particular bill would all but end drag shows in the state,” Tunnel said. “If this bill passes, there isn’t a place in this county I could produce a show. Unless anyone wants to lend me a few generators and a corn field.”

Tunnel said she became involved with drag after earning her Bachelor of Science in theater from Murray State and moving to Chicago.

“When I lived in Chicago, I was fresh out of theater school and trying to find a design job,” Tunnel said. “What they don’t tell you is that every theater wants you to work for free while you balance a full-time job to pay your bills. I had always been a fan of drag, and I wanted to keep my skills sharp, so I entered a 2 a.m. drag contest at a bar down the street from where I lived.”

Drag performances can take many different forms and can include a wide variety of entertainment to audience members, Tunnel said.

“Just like plays, stand-up comedy, movies or TV shows, some shows are for adults only, some are appropriate for all ages and some are catered to young audiences,” Tunnel said. “The setting and content change accordingly.”

One of Tunnel’s primary concerns regarding SB 115 was the effect the legislation would have on transgender people.

“First, I want to address that while this bill is discussing drag shows, the language around clothing is a clear attack on trans people,” Tunnel said. “Drag queens are just very glamorous clowns when it comes down to it. We are people who like to express ourselves through art and performance.”

After six years of performing, Tunnel says drag performances are an important part of many people’s identities, and bills like SB 115 threaten that.

“Drag shows are more than just entertainment,” Tunnel said. “They are a place where queer and trans people can feel safe—safe from judgment and ridicule. But this bill would affect real life people who are just trying to live their lives in an authentic and honest way.”

Tunnel also expressed disappointment in Rep. Mary Beth Imes, who represents Calloway and Trigg Counties, and Sen. Jason Howell, who represents Calloway, Graves and Marshall counties, for their support of SB 115.

“These actions and these bills are with the deliberate intention to cause harm to real people, their constituents,” Tunnel said. “Also, fighting culture wars and banning drag shows is easier than doing their actual job. Filling potholes on Fourth Street, fixing contaminated water pipes, funding schools… They don’t want to do the work that makes people’s lives tangibly better.”

In regards to fellow Kentuckians who might misunderstand drag performers and support SB 115, Tunnel encourages open-mindedness and said legislative priorities should lie elsewhere.

“We aren’t dangerous people,” Tunnel said “We don’t want to turn anyone gay or make more drag queens—trust me, the market is oversaturated. …It’s asinine that we are wasting legislative hours on this. Housing the homeless seems much more worthwhile.”

SB 115 is one of several bills under consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly that will affect the LGBTQ+ community.

Those with concerns over the legislation are encouraged to reach out to Murray Pride at @murraykypride on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

You can also reach out to your legislator and request a meeting with them to voice your concerns. Howell can be reached at [email protected]. Imes can be contacted at [email protected]. You can also call 502-564-8100 to leave a message.