Here’s a fun statistic that I increasingly find myself referencing these days: The number of cases of kids being hurt by the Catholic Church around the world is in the hundreds of thousands, while the number of cases of kids being hurt at drag shows stands at a whopping zero. None. It simply doesn’t happen, because drag shows, and drag brunches, and drag storytelling hours at local libraries are about kids having fun, learning about different lifestyles, possibly learning about themselves.
That fun has naturally outraged conservatives, who have more recently placed children attending drag shows at the centerpiece of their anti-LGBTQ crusade. Earlier this month, white nationalists stormed a library where a drag queen was reading to children, likely traumatizing the kids in attendance. Mentions of “Drag Queen Story Hour” have increased 777% on social platforms since the beginning of the month, spurring ever-greater harassment and threats targeting queens and, consequently, children.
Last week, the notably committee-less insurrectionist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) announced she would introduce a bill to ban children from drag shows. The bill comes after a recent tweet calling on parents to “take your children to CHURCH, not drag bars,” from Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), whose husband is known for exposing his penis to a group of teens at a bowling alley, an act for which he served jail time. They’re joined by the perennially reasonable Republican legislators of Florida and Texas, who are both weighing legislation to make children’s presence at drag shows a literal felony. And to think, all of this started, really, because parents deigned to post videos of their kids looking very happy alongside friendly queens at local drag shows—god forbid kids be happy!
Republican lawmakers claim their recent moral panic is about protecting children from being “groomed” or “sexualized”—all as they derail gun safety legislation to prevent the next school shooting, and as Congress is poised to end a school lunch program that allowed low-income kids to eat during the summer. Their disdain for drag pretty transparently has nothing to do with kids—it’s about outrage at even the faintest allusion to the reality that not all lifestyles revolve around pleasing and submitting to cis, straight men. Some of them will even straight-up admit that when pressed:
Many people are, in fact, having sexual relations not solely to help male breeders get off, or bear biological children—many, including cis straight women, aren’t centering their lives around having children, at all.
The reinvigorated anti-gay and anti-abortion movements are driven entirely by conservatives’ recognition of this years-in-the-making paradigm shift, and they’re determined to deny anyone who isn’t a cis, straight man pleasure and joy—especially from sex. Drag shows are about exploring gender as performance, more so than sex, but that alone—a joyful display of how freeing and fun it can be to defy the confines of prescribed gender roles—is dangerous to conservatives; the message it sends to kids who may be watching is that they can be who they are, which is more than breeders in service of heterosexual male desire.
It’s why conservatives want to end abortion: because cis, straight women should be having sex to procreate, to build families helmed by authoritative male patriarchs that we live to please. They’re repulsed by the idea of women and people with uteruses having sexual relations for their own pleasure, an experience that should be reserved exclusively for men.
The panic and moral policing about LGBTQ identity and women’s sexuality would almost be comical, if it weren’t driving actual, real policing, and policies that will inevitably kill people—either by driving up already high LGBTQ youth suicide rates or worsening the maternal mortality rate for Black pregnant people and pregnant people of color. In Texas, parents are being investigated for child abuse for supporting their trans kids in seeking gender-affirming health care. In a similar vein, Texas resident Lizelle Herrera was jailed and charged with homicide for allegedly self-inducing an abortion, in April. And in Florida and other states, teachers can lose their jobs or face exorbitantly costly lawsuits for even alluding to being gay, or referencing their same-sex partners.
We’re already witnessing the consequences of this policing in real time: A teen in Texas attempted suicide following a state law to prohibit gender-affirming care for minors in the state. LGBTQ teachers, or teachers who talk about LGBTQ identity, are losing their jobs. Thanks to the Supreme Court, abortion is on the brink of being banned in dozens of states, and even more women and pregnant people will certainly be spied on and criminalized as a result. Already, dozens of states severely restrict abortion rights for minors, to teach kids early on that if they have a uterus, their body belongs to the state—not them—and they exist to uphold the patriarchal family unit.
When conservative lawmakers and activists rail against the presence of children at drag shows, this is the future they’re trying to create. Anything that threatens the supremacy and divine, exclusive right of straight, white men and straight, white men alone to be happy, to live in their truths of khaki pants, grilling, and “providing” for their families, will be smited and punished. Because that’s the only danger that abortion rights and drag shows pose to children—the consciousness that life could be better, that life isn’t just about making babies and trad-housewifing for straight men.