The controversy surrounding a Planned Parenthood LGBTQ+ youth club in Pennsylvania is heating up after Republican and Democratic state senators made public statements regarding their stance on the events hosted by the center.
On Jan 23, Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano announced a proposed ban on drag shows on public property where they can be viewed by minors, citing recent footage shared on social media of a drag performance at a Queer Prom hosted by the Rainbow Room in Bucks County, Penn.
In response, Democratic State Sen. Steve Santarsiero published an open letter accusing Mastriano of giving a “distorted characterization” of the event. Santarsiero awarded the Rainbow Room program $630,000 in state funding last year.
The Queer Prom in question took place in October 2022, and video footage from the event shows a scantily-clad male performer dancing provocatively before the assembled crowd of teenagers. Swag bags handed out at the events contained lube, condoms and dental dams.
In his statement, Mastriano called the event “a sexually charged drag show for audience members as young as 13,” and stated his intention that drag shows be classified as “adult oriented business.”
Santarsiero hit back saying characterizing the performance as “sexually charged” was a distortion and defended the “much-decried swag bags.” To Santarsiero, the event was nothing more than “a large group of teenagers having fun.”
Santarsiero shared his letter on Facebook, and the response was mixed. Many voiced their support for the Democrat senator and the Rainbow Room, while others expressed concern that the youth using the center were too young to be exposed to such sexualized content.
“Senator Santarsiero - With all due respect, no one objects to LGBTQ youth being supported. We want all children and adolescents supported, included, and kept safe,” wrote Pennridge School Board member Joan Cullen.
“In fact, if I may, that's precisely why we're so upset about the Rainbow Room activities. Exposing LGBTQ youth to inappropriate content, intermingling them with adult participants, revealing their identities and location to strangers on the internet, and making their lives about nothing other than sex, is not supportive. It's degrading - and frankly, dangerous.”
Cullen called for “an honest assessment” of how the Rainbow Room operates, with assurances that the minors using the services are protected. She has yet to receive a response.
Beyond the provocative drag show at the Queer Prom, there are other activities and events being held in the Rainbow Room that are causing concern. A “Sexuality and Slang” event advertised on the center’s social media page shows explicit images and degrading terms for female genitalia such as “c*m dumpster” and “d*ck sharpener.”
The center also encourages youth to become social justice activists.
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