Drag Queens Take Center Stage In Midterm Battle Over Children’s Education

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Laurel Duggan Social Issues and Culture Reporter
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  • Drag queen performances have long existed, but new events with child audiences such as drag queen story hours, are drawing criticism, particularly from conservatives.
  • In the months leading up to midterms, numerous conservative political candidates have made public stances on drag shows for kids, and some have even had public spats with drag queens. 
  • “This is a quite explicit effort to sexualize younger and younger children,” Dr. Jay Richards, director of the DeVos Center at the Heritage Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Drag queens have become a major talking point in several midterm races, with their performances sparking debates over gender and sexuality issues along with education, child protection and various other hot-button cultural issues.

Drag performers are typically male and dress as women in provocative outfits including wigs and makeup to perform song and dance routines, but their repertoire has recently expanded to include performances for children at “drag queen story hours” and all-ages drag shows. The latter have inspired fierce blowback from conservative political candidates who view drag performances for children as inappropriate behavior that, in some cases, grooms them for inappropriate relationships with adults.

“This is a quite explicit effort to sexualize younger and younger children,” Dr. Jay Richards, director of the DeVos Center at the Heritage Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had a spat with a drag queen who goes by Lil Miss Hot Mess earlier this month after including footage of the performer reading to an audience of young children in full drag costume in a campaign video that suggested the event was aimed at indoctrinating children. Lil Miss Hot Mess accused Rubio of bigotry in an ad published by the LGBT activist group GLAAD.

“Why are you so obsessed with me and Drag Story Hour? We’re simply out here reading books to children, encouraging them to use their imagination to envision a more just and fabulous world,” the performer said. “We could be addressing the devastating impacts of climate change, the devastating epidemic of gun violence in our schools, the devastating economy that isn’t working for working people.”

Numerous other Republican candidates have brought up drag queen story hours and related drag events in their campaigns, including Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who bemoaned that “they kicked God out of schools and welcomed the Drag Queens” in June. She faced a torrent of criticism soon after when drag queen Richard Stevens said she had attended many of his shows and called her a “complete hypocrite.”

Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is facing criticism for drag performances reportedly funded by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, a division of the state Department of Commerce; Kelly has denied state funding for the events in question, but promotional materials had a Kansas Department of Commerce logo on them, according to KSN.com. Kansas Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt blamed Kelly for the drag shows.

“Gov. Kelly has been telling Kansas for months now that she’s in the middle of the road. Well, supporting and funding drag shows for kids of all ages is not middle of the road,” he said Monday.

“If you elect me as your governor, I commit that my administration will put a stop to using your hard-earned money and our state’s good name to sponsor or promote sexually suggestive or explicit programming – especially to children,” he wrote.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is up for reelection in November, and in the months leading up to midterms he zeroed in on social issues including drag shows with child audiences; the state sued a bar after investigators found that children were exposed to sexually explicit content at a drag show, DeSantis announced in July.

“It is, in short, an attempt, as a part of gender ideology, to ‘queer’ the most important sexual boundary—between adults and children,” Dr. Richards said. “Gender ideologues have made a fatal strategic error by going after children in this most blatant possible way, and they should not be surprised at the pushback by not only conservatives, but by anyone else who has retained a modicum of basic decency.”

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