A growing number of “family-friendly” drag queen story hours and dance performances open to children are becoming a mainstay of June Pride Month celebrations.
The social media account Libs of TikTok has posted dozens of viral tweets over the past weeks showing public schools, libraries, parks, gay nightclubs and even a Florida church including young children in pride events featuring professional drag queens.
Libs of TikTok shared flyers on June 1 for the San Antonio Zoo’s second annual “Night Out at the Zoo” on June 17 — a “family-friendly ticketed event for all ages” that will feature performances by the cross-dressing Extravagrams.
“Drag has even come to zoos,” the post notes.
Conservative activists and groups are criticizing such events. Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for education studies at the Family Research Council, said many parents don’t want organizations advertising drag events to their children.
“Sexualized dance performance featuring adult males dressed as women is not appropriate entertainment for children,” Ms. Kilgannon said.
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But Out Leadership, an LGBT business network, says public and private organizations invite children to the drag events “to be inclusive of the broad spectrum of the communities that they serve.”
“Drag is just one type of entertainment among many, and as an art form, goes back many centuries. Just ask Shakespeare,” Todd Sears, Out Leadership’s CEO, said in an email.
Nonetheless, Indiana officials and Dubois County Pride canceled a “Family Friendly Drag Show” for “all ages” at Jayce Park in the small town of Jasper after Libs of TikTok shared the group’s Facebook flyer for the June 24 event in a viral post.
“While the Dubois County Pride committee is disappointed by this development, we are in no way deterred,” Dubois County Pride said in a Facebook announcement. “Our mission to promote and advocate love and equality remains steadfast.”
Meanwhile, Illinois’ Waukegan Public Library and Highwood Public Library have advertised “drag queen story time” and “drag kids dress up” as part of this weekend’s Lake County Pride Fest 2022.
And in Florida, the Naples United Church of Christ sponsored a May 21 drag show for children between the ages of 12 and 18.
Some families have pushed back on the drag events.
An Iowa school district received complaints after dancers from the Central Iowa Youth Pride Pageant performed in drag for Ankeny High School students at a meeting of the Gay Straight Alliance club last month.
“This performance was after school and localized to the students participating in the club. It was not approved by the building administration, and it is currently under investigation,” the Ankeny Community School District said in an email.
Conservative activists say the growing popularity of transgender advocacy is driving the spike in children’s drag queen events. They point out that the Nickelodeon children’s show “Blues Clues & You!” featured a drag queen-led pride parade in a singalong video last year.
“Parents want schools to start prioritizing academic instruction, and they expect libraries to be safe places that offer age-appropriate books and events,” Virginia Gentles, director of the Education Freedom Center at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, said in an email. “Instead, schools and libraries are prioritizing the demands of adults seeking to expose children to sexual content and highly sexualized performances.”
Marissa Streit, who as CEO of the conservative media company PragerU produces alternative children’s programming, said parents can no longer trust institutions to shield their children from age-inappropriate content.
“This is what happens when parents sit back and do nothing because they don’t want to believe their children will be placed in danger by institutions they should be able to trust,” Ms. Streit said.
But the School District of Philadelphia defended its decision to host a drag queen performance for students during an end-of-year pride month celebration on June 1, saying “hosting student-driven events that represent the identities of our students is important to supporting their emotional and physical well-being.”
“Similar to an after-school play or sporting event, this performance is a creative outlet intended to inspire and uplift students,” the public school district said in an email.