Is drag culture appropriate for children?

Family Jr.

Fact Box

  • In 1867, the Hamilton Lodge in Harlem hosted the first “drag ball,” featuring both sexes coming dressed to compete for “best gown” or “feminine figure.”
  • With the dawn of the speakeasy, the 1930s is thought to be the ignition of gay nightlife and drag balls since Prohibition in the US kicked many underground. With this newfound privacy to consume alcohol and enjoy themselves, gay men found space away from police detection. 
  • RuPaul Charles is considered one of the most well-known and commercially successful Drag Queens in America. 
  • Some mainstream feminists question whether drag is a sort of “cultural appropriation” and overt sexualization of women by men.  
  • A February 2022 Gallup reported LGBTQ identification in the US has ticked up to 7.1% from 5.6% in 2021, with nearly 21% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ. Bisexuality was the most common (57%) sexual identity claimed, while 10% identified as transgender. 
  • A June 2022 Golden/TIPP poll found that 48% of adults disapprove of drag events involving children, like “drag queen story hour,” including in venues outside of libraries. 54% of those who approved of such events were Democrats, whereas 71% of Republicans disapproved.

Martin (Yes)

As drag culture gains fanfare beyond the nightclub, it will inevitably trickle into everyday life. While some have raised concerns about whether drag culture is appropriate for children, it serves as an example of fun, artistic expression that invites families to see the world in colorful and exciting ways. Known for its heightened caricatures, costumes, and performances, children can gain much from drag culture; it’s arguably essential for children interested in arts and performance to become aware of these types of imaginative possibilities. Age-appropriate drag performances can influence a child's poise, public speaking, and fortitude, helping them develop good self-esteem.

As imitation is part of a child's growth, drag gives children new ways to express themselves through creating characters to portray. Drag even features professional children, such as Desmond Is Amazing, who showed America it's okay to be comfortable in their skin, no matter how they appear or wish to appear. This sort of culture often features healthy conversations about gender expression, revealing a new world of possibilities to children. Considering how these events are another form of entertainment, they are perfect for early childhood development and socialization opportunities, as kids get involved in the real world away from screens to interact with other children and families who share the same desire for creative fun. 

Lastly, exposing the child to drag culture does not necessarily change who they are. Instead, it sparks healthy conversations about sexuality, gender, and creativity that influence their ultimate development. This is something that can equip parents later on to address mental health and other important topics with their children. Drag is more than just a show for adults; it inspires children to be more open and who they really are without apology.

Luke (No)

Drag is adult entertainment; it’s explicitly sexual by design. Anyone proposing that drag culture is appropriate for children must explain away the drag queen at a library wearing a visible dildo and exposed buttocks. These proponents must also explain away the statement by a drag queen who equivocated drag culture to strippers and porn stars. No one is concerned about a man dressed as a woman in a movie to play a role, such as Mrs. Doubtfire, nor are they generally concerned with what consenting adults do in backrooms. What people are rightfully worried about is the sexualization and grooming of children by grown adult males. 

To be clear, a ‘Drag Queen’ is a man dressed as an over-the-top, provocative woman with an accompanying sexual or otherwise inappropriate pseudonym—such as Anna Bortion, Malestia Child, and Phallic [C*nt]—who performs lewd acts for a crowd. In what way is that 'family friendly'? In the US and throughout the world, children hold a special status where they are protected from sexual materials and are considered unable to make rational decisions for themselves. It is federally illegal to show or involve minors in any type of sexual behavior. How, then, is a drag queen teaching children to twerk not criminal behavior? It is a fact that a child's mind is highly malleable, and, thereby, introducing them to a sexualized atmosphere may have tremendous effects on how they process the world. In no way is the involvement of children in drag culture appropriate due to the overtly sexual themes and the undeveloped mental capacity of those who are underaged. Moreover, it is the moral duty of parents and adults to prevent the ever-increasing sexualization of our children and to shield them from sexual content.

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