Who's Your Daddy

Drag’s about having fun

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You may remember from a Who’s Your Daddy that appeared last summer (Peer to Peer) that as a teenager, I was a theater geek. My love for this art form only increased as I grew older. By the time I was in college, I had season tickets to Salt Lake Acting Company. And when I finished grad school, my present from Kelly was tickets to Les Misérables. We went on to be season ticket holders for both Theater Rhinoceros and American Conservatory Theater.

Like books and music, theater, in all its forms, has always been early targets for small-minded politicians with few tangible policies, who therefore create imaginary threats as diversions. We’re seeing it today as a raft of conservatives try to pass legislation banning drag shows. And the reasoning is always the same: to protect the children.

Look, I’m a dad. My number one job since I became a father is to protect my kids. And over the years, there have been plenty of dangers. But do you know what has never once threatened my kids? Drag queens.

The reason provided by those advocating for legislation that bans these shows and drag-led story times at libraries is simple: these queens are “grooming” kids for later abuse and exploitation. Never mind the lack of evidence that it is actually occurring; the mere idea of this truly horrifying act is all the excuse necessary for a witch hunt. And no one wants to stand idly by when kids are in danger – imagined as it may be.

We’ve seen this type of bizarre hysteria before. In the 1980s, the country was in the thrall of a full-blown satanic panic. It started in Manhattan Beach, near Los Angeles. The mother of a child in a daycare center accused her estranged husband and one of the school’s male teachers of abusing her son. By the time the case went to trial, there were wild accusations of mass abuse at the hands of satanists.

Here’s what’s crazy about the whole affair: after seven years and $15 million in court costs, not a single conviction was made. None of the accusations ever happened, but lives were destroyed.

Of course, not all the concerns expressed about drag shows are as nefarious as abuse. There’s a whole group of folks arguing that kids will be confused about gender. What? It looks like a lovely lady with a three-foot-tall beehive hairdo, but it’s really a man? I’m confused! Yeah, seeing sweet Petunia Pap Smear in full regalia is really going to confuse children about their own gender identity.

The reality is no one’s kids – mine included – are under any type of threat by drag queens as a group. Moreover, I firmly believe that the most vocal opponents also actually know there’s no threat. But many of their followers don’t. And therein lies the real threat. It may only be a matter of time before some zealot, fueled by conservative rhetoric, takes matters of “protecting kids” into his own hands.

Personally, I don’t think opponents of drag understand its purpose. But I do. I learned it over three nights back in high school. As a theater geek, I was in my fair share of plays, including The Matchmaker, which is the basis of Hello Dolly. In one scene, two male characters avoid detection from their boss by donning their female companions’ coats, hats, and gloves.

When my fellow actor and I stood and camped it up in decidedly women’s clothing, we were met with uproarious laughter, hoots, and hollers from the audience. They understood it: drag isn’t a threat; it’s about having fun.

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