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Drag Queens: Fun For The Whole Family?

By Lauren Chen·· 5 min read
drag queen story hour Annie Bartholomew KTOO
Annie Bartholomew / KTOO

The internet is never short on shocking videos. But lately, it seems like some of the worst offenders share a common theme: Drag queens. And children. Together.

In one disturbing viral clip, a young girl, perhaps around 5 or 6 years old, is seated in a chair at the center of a room full of adults. She looks uncomfortable as a grown man (wearing jean shorts so revealing his bottom spills out of them) crawls seductively toward her. The “adults” in the room cheer. The poor girl does not.

In another video, a drag queen describes to an audience of toddlers what twerking is. Twerking, of course, being a particularly suggestive dance move more commonly found at nightclubs than nurseries. “You crouch down to this sort of position so your bum’s sticking out, and then you just move your bum up and down like that,” the drag queen explains while proudly giving the kids a demonstration.

Although it should horrify people to even hear about these incidents, let alone to see the actual footage, what’s perhaps even more concerning than these events themselves are the number of adults - and yes, parents - who see nothing wrong with them. To the contrary, some people argue, these videos aren’t disturbing, they’re actually a good thing.

Somewhere along the way, our culture, which prides itself on taking tolerance to the extreme, has decided that drag queens belong with properties like Sesame Street and Paw Patrol as child-friendly entertainment. And as unsettling as it may be to see adults give overtly sexual performances to children, for anyone who’s been paying attention, things like “Drag Queen Story Hour” are a natural evolution of a society which believes that breaking taboos, no matter what they are or why they exist, is inherently beneficial.

The Slippery Slope… Is Slippery

As we saw in the past decade, the push for more LGBT inclusive material for young children began with the representation of same-sex couples in children’s entertainment, such as shows, movies, and books. And although millennials, who are overwhelmingly accepting of LGBT lifestyles, somehow managed to embrace the concept of tolerance without being introduced to the complexities of human sexuality as toddlers, it’s now argued that this exposure is necessary for children to be sufficiently open-minded.

Don’t want your child to grow up to be a bigot? Well, you should probably get her Barbie doll a live-in romantic partner, just to be sure.

To truly raise tolerant people, it’s now believed that schools and parents should expose children to the full range of LGBT lifestyles as young as possible. 

But in a world where Pete Buttigieg, the country’s first openly gay Presidential hopeful, was actually criticized for not being “queer enough,” it should come as no surprise that for some activists, introducing young children to portrayals of gay and lesbian couples is no longer enough.

To truly raise tolerant people, it’s now believed that schools and parents should expose children to the full range of LGBT lifestyles as young as possible. This includes breaking down concepts of gender, as well as embracing overt sexuality. Gender roles are bad, promiscuity is good, and it’s under this mentality that drag queens have become new fixtures of early childhood education.

No, Drag Is NOT Appropriate for Children

In response to concerns that drag performances are too risqué for children, supporters sometimes say that yes, drag can be provocative, but the performances for children are specifically toned down to omit the sexual overtones.

However, as the videos mentioned earlier clearly illustrate, it’s simply false to say that child drag performances are strictly PG. And it’s not as if those cases are outliers, either. Recently, parents in Scotland were outraged after a drag queen named “Flowjob” was inexplicably invited to perform for their children, and parents in Ireland were similarly incensed upon learning that a drag collective called “Glitter Hole” had planned on hosting an event for kids as young as 3 years old.

Drag is adult entertainment, usually full of sexual themes and often full-on vulgarity. It’s one thing for adults to enjoy that, but they’re clearly not performances meant for children. People would never accept the idea of a “child-friendly burlesque show,” but for some reason, because drag performers are men and part of the LGBT umbrella, pushing them in front of children is currently believed to be a practice in “tolerance” and “acceptance”. But let’s be clear: sexualizing children is wrong, regardless of the gender or orientation of the person doing the sexualizing.

“That Doesn’t Represent Me!”

Another controversy that has surrounded schoolyard drag performance has been criticism over the conflation of drag culture with the broader LGBT community. While it’s true that drag participants are almost exclusively LGBT members, it’s still a relatively niche form of entertainment, even among gay men and/or trans women. 

Not all gay men enjoy dressing up as caricatures of women. Not all LGBT people like X-rated performances, let alone shoving those performances in front of young children. At the end of the day, drag queens are no more representative of the LGBT community than strippers are representative of women.

Drag queens are no more representative of the LGBT community than strippers are representative of women.

Pushing drag queens in front of toddlers, under the premise of advancing LGBT acceptance, will likely give these children the impression that to be LGBT is to be hypersexualized, to be flamboyant. And aside from being patently untrue, ironically enough, those are some of the exact stereotypes that activists of previous generations have fought hard to dismiss. 

Closing Thoughts

Numerous members of the LGBT community, such as popular trans YouTuber Blaire White, have themselves spoken out against the efforts to expose children to drag queens. Wanting to ensure that kids are protected from sexualized situations, or conversations surrounding sexuality and gender that they aren’t able to properly understand, doesn’t make someone transphobic, anti-LGBT, or any other kind of bigot. It makes them an adult, and it’s about time real adults took control of this situation.