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TN Governor's Office r/PoliticalHumor

Old photo purportedly of Tennessee Gov. wearing dress in high school unearthed as he plans to sign anti-drag bill into law

Gov. Lee is widely expected to sign an anti-drag bill.


Claire Goforth


Posted on Feb 27, 2023   Updated on Feb 27, 2023, 12:24 pm CST

Tennessee is poised to enact one of the nation’s most restrictive pieces of legislation targeting drag performances. The bill would prohibit performing “adult cabaret performances” featuring “male or female impersonators” in any location or venue where minors could see it.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) is widely expected to sign it.

Over the weekend, a photo surfaced that purported shows Lee dressed in drag in high school. The photo swiftly went viral after it was posted on Reddit.

The image led people to call Lee a hypocrite on the grounds that the anti-drag legislation he could sign as soon as today could make his alleged conduct in that photo a crime. The state legislature has also passed a bill prohibiting gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Lee previously signed legislation prohibiting transgender students from competing in sports that match their gender identity.

These bills are part of a wave of transphobia and homophobia sweeping the nation.

Lee’s office did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment about the alleged yearbook photo of him in drag on Monday morning.

The viral image is reportedly from page 165 of the 1977 Franklin High School yearbook. Lee graduated from Franklin High School in 1977, then went on to attend Auburn University.

The Daily Dot found a 1977 yearbook for Franklin High School on Page 165 of the yearbook matches the photo posted on Reddit that’s purportedly Lee dressed in drag.

There is also another page on the yearbook that includes photos of the same person, in a spread about the school’s annual powder puff game.

A different page of the same yearbook archived on included a brief biography of Bill Lee, who was named “most outstanding senior boy” of his class. It stated that Lee planned to attend Auburn University after graduating. “He also seems interested in political sciences and would like to become a politician,” the bio added.

Photos of the young Lee in the yearbook appear to closely match that of the individual in drag in the same book.

Internet users widely mocked and criticized Lee after the photo of him reportedly in drag went viral.

“Sure, maybe it’s hypocritical, but @GovBillLee answers to a higher authority. It’s not like Jesus ever condemned hypocrisy . . . excuse me, my producer is saying something in my earpiece,” a Twitter user commented facetiously.

Some cynical observers opined that, even if that law had been in place at the time, it probably wouldn’t have been enforced against participants in a powder puff game, despite a high school football game being full of underage kids the laws ostensibly aims to protect.

“They don’t care, they’ll enforce the laws against their targets and look the other way if it suits them. It’s all about power and excuses to use it,” a redditor posited.

This isn’t the first time a resurfaced yearbook photo has generated controversy for Tennessee’s Republican governor. In 2019, a photo from the 1980 Auburn University yearbook surfaced in which Lee wore a Confederate uniform. Lee told the Tennessean that he regretted wearing the uniform.

Lee hasn’t commented on the alleged picture of him in drag.

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*First Published: Feb 27, 2023, 12:23 pm CST