Founded by Jerry Peek, the first Miss Gay America pageant was held in Nashville in 1972 at the Watch Your Coat & Hat Saloon. Starting the Miss Gay America pageant seemed like a natural progression for Peek’s businesses. It was the first national pageant for female impersonators, and it remains the longest running pageant in the United States. Per the pageant’s rules, all participants must be biologically male. Peek sold the pageant to its first winner, Norma Kristie (Norman Jones), in 1975.
Peek got the idea to bring drag shows to Nashville and to start the pageant after traveling to a successful bar in Indianapolis that held shows with female impersonators, or drag queens.
See also: Jerry Peek, Watch Your Coat & Hat Saloon, The Glass Menagerie
Sources: Hollis Hollywood, “Miss Gay America Founder Jerry Peek on a life in the business of drag,” OutVoices Nashville, Jan. 1, 2013.