- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2022

Pride Month drag queen events and gender discussions are necessary for children’s healthy development, LGBTQ advocates said this week.

Public schools, libraries and a variety of businesses, such as Taco Bell and locally owned gay nightclubs, are advertising “family-friendly” drag queen brunches, story hours and dance performances as part of June’s annual celebration of gay rights.

This year’s events emphasize transgender children in defiance of Republican-led parental rights laws, which have aimed to restrict their access to gender identity resources in dozens of states.

According to the children’s mental health app Little Otter, it’s healthy for parents to give small children the chance to explore gender identity because they form strong “internalized gender roles” by age 5.

“When having these conversations around gender and LGBTQ+, the key is to communicate acceptance, offer support and learn together,” Dr. Helen Egger, a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Little Otter, told The Washington Times on Thursday.

“Even if you’re not sure what to say, something as simple as, ‘I’m here for you. I love you, and I will support you no matter what’ is an important place to start,” she said.

Developmental psychologist Marti Erickson said during a Thursday afternoon webinar on “Young Kids and Gender Identity” that it’s essential for parents to discuss gender with their children at “ages 0-8” since they start noticing sexual differences at age 2.

“They might notice, ‘well, daddy has a penis’ and ‘oh, so do I’ or ‘I don’t, I look more like mommy when I’m taking my bath’ or something,” said Ms. Erickson, who hosts the “Mom Enough” podcast with her daughter Erin.

Ms. Erickson urged a virtual audience of parents from Bright Horizons, a Boston-based network of 403 day cares in 38 states and the District of Columbia, to let small children explore different gender expressions without limiting or shaming them.

That means letting girls play with trucks, boys feed baby dolls and wear jewelry around the house, she said. It also means being careful about gendered language like “good little girl” or “handsome boy.”

“So I think it’s very important to let kids take the lead from a very early age,” Ms. Erickson said.

This month’s drag events come as Republican lawmakers have introduced measures to curb transgender advocacy for small children in dozens of states over the past year.

That includes Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that will ban gender and sexuality discussions in K-3 public school classrooms starting July 1. Parental rights advocates have supported the law, which LGBTQ groups have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“We have quickly moved from social madness to outright child abuse when Pride Month turns its sights on the continual sexualization of our children,” Kimberly Fletcher, president of the conservative Moms for America, said Thursday. “As moms, we have had enough. We should be protecting the innocence of children, not compromising it for political gain.”

The conservative Media Research Center reported Friday that Twitter locked the social media account Libs of TikTok, which has publicized many of this month’s drag events in viral posts, for “violating our rules against abuse and harassment.” 

In Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to overturn Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent directive that state officials treat gender hormone therapy for minors as child abuse.

That came two days after Republican state Rep. Bryan Slaton announced plans for a bill to ban minors from attending drag shows. Mr. Slaton cited social media images of protests and police interrupting a “Drag the Kids to Pride Drag Show” on Saturday at the gay nightclub Mr. Misster Dallas.  

Videos of the event show young children tipping drag queens at the bar, which features a sign on one wall that reads: “This doesn’t lick itself.”

“The events of this past weekend were horrifying and show a disturbing trend in which perverted adults are obsessed with sexualizing young children,” Mr. Slaton, who represents the rural 2nd District, said in a statement Monday.

In Florida, Mr. DeSantis told reporters on Wednesday he would consider a bill to investigate parents who take their children to drag shows after seeing videos of the performance.

California state Sen. Scott Wiener, an openly gay Democrat who represents San Francisco, responded to Mr. Slaton on Twitter by saying it gave him an idea for a new bill in his state.

“Offering Drag Queen 101 as part of the K-12 curriculum,” Mr. Wiener tweeted on Tuesday. “Attending Drag Queen Story Time will satisfy the requirement.”

While Mr. Wiener’s tweet appeared sarcastic, the drag queen who hosted Saturday’s brunch at Mr. Misster Dallas said the effort to include small children was sincere.

“I remember being that kid wishing I had the representation I provided in the show that Saturday. We should practice more love, not labels,” Nicole O’Hara Munro told The Washington Times.

Trey Stewart, who owns the nightclub in uptown Dallas, said Texas lawmakers should focus “their efforts and attention” on the recent mass shooting in Uvalde rather than on drag queens.

“Drag is an expression of creativity, art and self expression, no different than pageants or theater. For one to think that laws need to be set in place to keep kids from expressing their creativity is a sad setback in our world,” Mr. Stewart said in an email.

Corporate America is also stepping up its efforts to support transgender youth during Pride Month.

Baby products maker Owlet is donating a portion of sales from its Forever Rainbow baby socks to the LGBTQ advocacy group Family Equality. Toy maker Mattel has rolled out a Barbie modeled after transgender actress Laverne Cox, who has expressed hopes that the doll will be “gender affirming” for young transgender girls.

Mattel’s Fisher-Price also has created “Little People Collector RuPaul figurines,” marketing dolls based on the celebrity drag queen to children as young as 1 year old.

The conservative civil rights group Color Us United, which hosted a National Webfest for Employees Against Woke Workplaces on Thursday, opposes such efforts.

“There is simply no reason why there should be any mention of a person’s sexuality before the third grade,” Kenny Xu, president of Color Us United, said in an email. “It disrupts chaste friendships and creates unhealthy dynamics between kids who just want to get along.”

But Ruben Hanohano, LGBTQIA+ committee co-chair at the YouTube advertising company Channel Factory, praised businesses for including kids in Pride Month resources.

“The truth of the matter is, kids are gay. Kids are trans. Kids are everywhere on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum,” Mr. Hanohano said.

“Rainbows are nice, but action is better,” he added.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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