Salon: Exposing Your Kids to Drag Performances ‘a Good Thing’

Chelsea, MA - June 25: Drag queens Just JP, left, and Sham Payne read stories to children during a Drag Story Hour at Chelsea Public Library in Chelsea, MA on June 25, 2022. In the past few months, many drag queens have experienced increased fear and threats. (Photo by Erin …
Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Drag performances can be a “good thing” to expose children to, according to a recent Salon piece that insists that “drag is for everyone” while claiming young children can be “mature enough” to handle the “language and sexual innuendo.”

The Thursday essay — titled “Drag is not dangerous: How exposing your kids to drag performance can be a good thing” and penned by writer Heidi Klaassen — begins by noting the current popularity of drag queens and the criticisms leveled at parents who bring children to “family-friendly drag shows perceived to be inappropriate for children.”

However, the author insists that “the art of drag is far-reaching” and is “making a difference for youth.”

Claiming her son “came out” as gay at the age of nine, Klaassen states the boy “found acceptance and self-love” in the reality competition TV series “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

“When I tell him that gay bars used to be raided by police or that drag queens were once arrested for their art, he finds this absurd,” she writes. “He’s 12 now and, like so many young people, marvels at the queens on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ their ability to express themselves and make a career doing it.”

Admitting her son “doesn’t know the gritty side of drag” which includes “booze-soaked, smoke-filled clubs and cabarets,” she argues that “public perception and expectations around drag” have changed over time. 

“What matters is that my son knows there are people out there like him, people who celebrate an art form that has a sense of humor and elevates the human spirit,” she writes. “Drag isn’t something to hide behind, it’s powerful creative expression.” 

“As RuPaul says, drag is for everyone,” she adds.

Though she was “initially nervous about some of the language and sexual innuendo,” Klaassen says she felt her young son “was mature enough to gain an understanding of these elements as they relate to drag performance.” 

“[L]et’s face it, in the absence of policing every internet moment for our children, they will discover what they want to learn, with or without us,” she writes.

She also highlights the “discussion among parents” over the suitable viewing age for “Drag Race.”

“Some say their toddlers love the dazzling visuals and pretty contestants” while others “abhor the language, suggestive sexual content, and occasional ‘nudity’ (which, interestingly, some networks use censorship by way of blurring the nipples on fake breasts but not the real nipples of topless men),” she writes.

As a mother, the author says she decided to let her pre-teen watch the reality competition “because much of what children see on television, in movies, and online involves socially constructed ideas of gender and sexuality, even outright homophobia, transphobia and misogyny.” 

“I felt the truth about the culture with which he identifies was a step in the right direction,” she writes.

“My own experiences as a fan of drag culture taught me about a complexity beyond female impersonation,” she adds. 

As opposed to many “heteronormative” films that are “deceptive,” she describes drag as “performance, art, and comedy” that requires “a vast knowledge of pop culture” and “the wit to turn it into parody and satire.”

“To be a drag queen is to be reborn, over and over again, in an image of your own creation,” she writes. “This is empowering.”

Calling the televised drag pageant “revolutionary,” as it represents “gay culture packaged as reality television,” the author claims the show has “elevated” the art, helping it become mainstream. 

“The show has changed the face of drag, a historically subversive art form, and has become a beacon of visibility and hope for LGBTQ2+ youth,” she writes, adding that she regards the show’s acceptance by the mainstream as “progress” now that the audience is “growing to include new generations of fans with enlightened expectations.”

Showering praise upon the show’s ability to “focus on self-love” while “instilling confidence and self-esteem in the participants as well as young viewers struggling with their identities and relationships,” Klaassen boasts that her son “knows details about famous drag queens the way sports fans keep statistics on their favourite athletes.” 

“We have front row meet-and-greet seats for the ‘Canada’s Drag Race’ Tour this summer,” she adds. “I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he meets his favourite queens up close.”

The essay continues with the author acknowledging that some would call her a “bad parent” for allowing her child to watch “Drag Race” or attend a drag show. 

“In parts of the United States, Republicans are trying to pass a bill to ban kids from drag shows and call social services on parents like me,” she writes. 

“In a society bursting with images of women and girls as sex objects, rampant gun violence, and hate driven by ignorance, I’m glad my kids can enjoy an art form that starts the conversation about queer history, oppression, and activism,” she adds.

Klaassen concludes by claiming her son “sees himself reflected” in the drag artists, noting that his brothers are growing up “with exposure to a culture that normalizes this diversity.” 

“It’s part of educating all of us about our evolving societal landscape,” she writes.

The piece comes as pro-LGBTQ and transgender propaganda continues to be marketed to children.

Last month, Danish toy giant LEGO launched a campaign to “raise awareness” and “celebrate inclusivity and embrace self-expression” as it introduced fans to stories and creations of members of the “LGBTQIA+ community” and pledged to arrange “Drag Queen Story Time” at its offices.

Also in June, New York City Mayor Eric Adams faced severe backlash following his praise for “drag storytellers” and their contributions to the school system and students, who he claimed could greatly benefit from such child-centric events. 

In addition, a video depicting a young child tipping a drag queen with uncovered fake breasts went viral recently, sparking outrage among social media users.

Breitbart News also noted that a viral video surfaced featuring drag queens dancing in front of babies and toddlers at a Dallas pride event called “Drag the Kids to Pride,” which was advertised as being “family-friendly.” 

Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asserted that men freely expressing themselves in drag is “what America is all about,” making the remarks during an appearance on the seventh season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

“[It’s] my honor to be here, to say to all of you how proud we are of you. Thank you for the joy and beauty you bring to the world,” she said. “Your freedom of expression of yourselves in drag is what America is all about.”

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.

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