My memories of elementary school are foggy, but I sure don’t remember any drag queens coming to class for story time. Apparently, at least in a few places, times have changed.
New reporting reveals that in New York City, taxpayer money was used to put on drag events in public school classrooms.
“New York City shelled out more than $200,000 in taxpayer funding in the past five years to have drag queens come into classrooms and interact with schoolchildren as young as age 3,” Fox News reports. “The nonprofit Drag Story Hour NYC, previously known as Drag Queen Story Hour NYC, received approximately $207,000 in taxpayer funding since 2018.”
An NYC education official defended these programs with the following statement: “Last year, 50 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in the United States due to their identity. We believe our schools play a critical role in helping young people learn about and respect people who may be different from them.”
Teaching children to respect all people is certainly important, and we should all be concerned about violence towards any and every population. That being said, drag often has a sexual component to it. Performers frequently dress provocatively and the art form is meant to experiment with the boundaries of gender and sex.
Do kids really need to be exposed to all that at such a young age?
There have been about 50 programs put on in NYC schools by the group so far this year, Fox News reports. Yet while they undoubtedly remain uncommon occurrences, drag-themed events for children are also occurring outside of New York and outside of schools.
For example, a Dallas gay bar recently hosted a drag night for children, which included a neon sign reading “it’s not gonna lick itself” and suggestive performers in full drag:
Drag Queen dances for children in Dallas, Texas. pic.twitter.com/uqoFWZMFAT
— Isabella Riley (@isabellarileyus) June 4, 2022
In another example, the following event in Austin, Texas was marketed as “family-friendly” and reportedly had at least 50 children in attendance:
This is from a “family-friendly all ages” drag and pride event in Austin, TX today.
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) June 12, 2022
To be clear, there is not an enormous number of drag queen child events surging throughout the country. And it’s always possible to find a few crazy examples of something on the internet. But there’s enough of a pattern of reports emerging here—let alone a major city funding this in schools with tax dollars—for it to warrant some serious concern.
These Events Are Not Appropriate for Children
I am gay and have been to a handful of drag shows. It’s not really my thing, but if people enjoy it, there’s nothing wrong with it—for adults. But it’s absolutely not appropriate for children.
Left or Right, no honest onlooker can look at the above scenes from Dallas and Austin and think it’s anything but inappropriate. These are explicitly sexual performances being pushed onto children. Taking children to such a performance is akin to taking them to any heterosexual strip club, which it’s hard to believe anyone would condone. Such actions are creepy, gross, and accomplish absolutely nothing positive.
Children are children. Their brains are not yet fully formed. They’re still learning to process the world around them. The last thing they need is to have to worry about elements of sex, love, or gender.
Now, in fairness, not all these events are the same. Many of the story-hour events in school classrooms, for example, do not involve twerking, and the drag queens are sometimes, while in drag, not wearing scandalously revealing clothing.
But it’s still unsuitable and likely confusing for children. As anyone who has been to a drag show surely knows, drag is inherently tied up with sexual themes. And as a form of performance art, drag is inherently tied up with gender-bending and crossing societal lines. This is not something young children—as young as 3-years-old in some cases per Fox News—have any business being exposed to.
Can’t we just let kids be kids?
This Sabotages the LGBT Community’s Progress
For many years, the LGBT community, gay men in particular, were unfairly stigmatized as predatory and viewed as disproportionately more likely to be pedophiles. Ample research has shown this to be untrue, and, thankfully, this stereotype has faded, if not evaporated, among the public.
But fringe activists pushing sexual activities onto children threaten this progress.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that all people involved in these drag queen events are child predators or are seeking to harm children. (Although some reportedly are). Many may have good intentions and fail to see why what they’re doing is so inappropriate and harmful. But that doesn’t really matter. Even though the vast majority of LGBT people would certainly reject events like the Austin/Dallas drag performances out of hand, these fringe actors change public perception and give us all a bad name.
Public Schoolchildren Are Captive Audiences
It’s particularly disturbing that these drag queen events for children are being pushed throughout the New York City public school system. While still disturbing, it’s one thing if parents are choosing to take their children to these events on their own time. But, according to Fox News, parents were only sometimes informed of these events ahead of time and were not given an opportunity to opt their children out. And, under our failing public education system, families are often left trapped with the local public school as their only option because we do not have robust school choice yet in this country.
It’s especially immoral to have these drag events imposed on captive child audiences in the public school system—and to make taxpayers, many of whom certainly disapprove of this activity, pay for it.
Whataboutism Isn’t An Argument
Defenders of the drag events for kids online often resort to whataboutism. Here are a few examples:
And this is from dance moms. Whats your point? pic.twitter.com/toTig3sRgH
— ninja girl (@kjheatherIng) June 12, 2022
— Dr. GiantSpaceAss (@GiantSpaceAss) June 13, 2022
I'm sure this is fine though pic.twitter.com/E9dfhVHwzU
— Cinnamon Bunny (@Cinbunzs) June 12, 2022
But whataboutism isn’t an argument. It’s actually a textbook logical fallacy. “Well, you guys also expose your kids to inappropriate sexual content,” is in no way a defense for your own actions.
I hold the apparently controversial view that kids should be allowed to be kids, and not exposed to scantily-clad adults and inappropriate suggestive dancers, whether it’s at Hooters or a gay bar. (Although it’s worth noting that there’s a significant difference in degree between, say, the Hooters waitresses’ skimpy outfits and the twerking drag queens on stage at some of these events).
Pointing out examples where some people on the Right hold a double standard doesn’t actually offer any defense of exposing children to twerking drag queens. It should be easy for us to condemn all of this questionable behavior across the board.
Just keep your children out of explicitly sexual events. This shouldn’t be hard.
Conservatives Need to Carefully Think Through Their Response
There are few things more upsetting than seeing children be neglected or harmed. So, in response to these disturbing reports, some Republicans have suggested sicking Child Protective Services on parents who take their kids to these inappropriate events.
This is fraught territory.
For one, CPS in many states is already wildly overloaded and can’t keep up with all the kids suffering legitimate physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect. To add more to their plate and have them start policing what events kids attend would further strain agencies that can’t keep up with their current caseloads. It would potentially take away resources and attention from kids who are actively being beaten and/or molested. Even if drag shows for kids are creepy and wrong, they’re a far cry from that kind of abuse, which should remain CPS’s main focus.
It’s also a very, very bad idea for conservatives to open the Pandora’s Box of involving CPS in parental decisions, even ones that seem absolutely horrible to us.
I’m a very big fan of DeSantis and very not a fan of kids at drag shows. But conservatives have to recognize the Pandora’s box we’re opening by involving CPS in judgment call parenting decisions. It’s not abuse. https://t.co/Icosj861UN
— Bethany S. Mandel (@bethanyshondark) June 10, 2022
I’ve had CPS threatened against me over rational parenting decisions I’ve made that I literally have a family law attorney saved into my contacts. All of us make choices other people don’t agree with – sometimes viscerally. We have to be very careful labeling decisions abusive.
— Bethany S. Mandel (@bethanyshondark) June 10, 2022
There are many decisions that conservative parents make involving their children that liberals or even moderate Americans might take serious issue with, rightly or wrongly, from homeschooling to religion to guns. Unless conservative parents want their controversial parenting decisions potentially policed by CPS in parts of the country where liberals have control, they shouldn’t go down that path.
Despite what online alarmism might sometimes suggest, this country is not experiencing an epidemic of drag queens abusing children. And, I want to be clear, there is nothing wrong with drag in and of itself for adults, nor is there anything wrong with teaching children to respect and treat all people equally. But inappropriate drag events involving children are becoming more common and now even infecting some of our public school systems.
This disturbing development is harmful for children and actually risks sabotaging the LGBT community’s progress. Still, conservatives need to be careful not to overact in ways that will come back to bite us or incur even more harmful events in the lives of impacted children.