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Within the last decade or so, drag queens went from being a niche and esoteric art form intended for adult audiences, to a growing worldwide phenomenon with millions upon millions of fans.
With drag’s massive boost in popularity came the intersecting of drag and children. Across the United States and Canada, drag queens have been asked to participate in Drag Queen Story Hour, and events of a similar nature.
According to Hennepin County Libraries, the events promote “self-expression, dress-up, and gender fluidity through stories, rhymes, music and movement with drag performers” from around local communities.
Hennepin County Library has become the centre of an online scandal, though, as a photo from one of their Drag Queen Story Hour event went viral.
On Oct. 17, non-binary drag queen Sasha Sota performed at a Library in front of a group of children. In one of the photos from the event, Sota’s spread legs can be seen briefly flashing the group of toddlers.
The unedited photo shows a clear crotch shot, with Sota wearing some type of pantyhose or leggings to cover his genitals.
Reactions to the photo were almost entirely negative, with parents quick to call the practice “sick.”
“I have done drag shows for fun and for charity and this is stupid, and confusing as to what the point of it could be,” read one comment.
“This is insanity and should not be allowed. Come on parents, what are you waiting for?” read another, with many more wondering why a taxpayer-funded institution hosted these types of events.
Principal communications specialist for Hennepin County Maria Baca told TPM that the Drag Queen Story Hours are a new presence in their library, and that they are “unfortunately making mistakes.”
“Every performance is different. That allows for a new show every day, but also introduces the possibility of new mistakes,” said Baca of the 15 scheduled Story Hours throughout the Minnesota county.
“Partway through this year’s schedule, we realized the need for a performer dress code. We followed up right away with each of the performers to ensure that their costumes are appropriate for the audience and activity.”
Baca’s comment declined to address TPM’s inquiry as to whether or not the performers had to go through any type of criminal background check to participate in front of child audiences.
“Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from LGBT families. As we continue to be both innovative and inclusive, we are committed to also be good stewards of our public spaces,” read the remainder of the comment.
A brief history of drag scandals
In recent months, several libraries have had their own Drag Queen-related scandals break out due to their own carelessness.
Outrage ensued following an incident at a Houston-based Drag Queen Storytime where one of its performers, Albert Alfonso Garza, also known as Tatiana Mala-Ñina, was revealed to have a criminal record, specifically, Garza was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault for performing oral sex on an eight-year-old boy.
Houston Public Library officials then announced that they would “improve upon policies” and “reorganize the program.” The program, though, has since been shut down.
This lone incident, though, did not stunt the popularity of Drag Queen Storytime, as more and more events continued to be held throughout the country.
Another queen, this time in a King County Library, “stripped” in front of children during her story hour, causing more outrage from concerned parents.
Drag’s appeal to children
In June the CBC, Canada’s taxpayer-funded broadcaster, released a trailer for the full-length documentary, Drag Kids. The documentary, as the name clearly suggests, follows the stories of several different children who participate in the “art form of drag.”
In the write-up for the documentary, the CBC explained that “as an art form, drag has always been about breaking down barriers, exploring new territory and daring to do the unexpected.”
“A new type of queen is emerging on the scene: she’s fierce, she’s living in a time of unprecedented access to queer culture and she’s younger than ever before,” wrote the CBC.
The documentary followed several different “drag kids,” including Desmond Is Amazing, a popular child drag kid who sparked a discussion surrounding children in drag when a convicted British pedophile wrote explicitly about how “sexy” he was.
Desmond made headlines after his performance at a New York City gay club called “Three Dollar Bill,” where he danced to a crowd of adults, even receiving cash tips during his routine.