Live and let (Drag Queens) live!

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I am not personally acquainted with any drag queens, as far as I know.  (If you know differently, please fill me in!)

I have never been to a drag show.  I’ve never even watched RuPaul’s Drag Race. I totally do not get the appeal of being a drag queen.  I despise wearing make-up and heels. I can’t imagine that I would ever have done either if they were not societal expectations of my gender and if my mother had not insisted. I cannot imagine wearing either for fun.

If I were a male, I would not be a drag queen. In fact, I think drag is just kind of weird.

But, who cares whether I think it is weird or not?

I wouldn’t get my leg covered up with tattoos, or parachute out of a perfectly good airplane, or pay $1,000 for a concert ticket or a baseball card, or get up at 4:00 in the morning to go sit in the freezing cold for a chance to shoot Bambi.  I think all those things are weird. People do stuff I think is weird sometimes. Who cares? More power to them! The world needs a little weird!

Evidently some people do not share my laissez-faire attitude toward weirdness when it comes to drag queens.

I read a sentiment on Facebook the other day that said, “Ask not why the children shouldn’t see drag queens; ask why drag queens crave an audience of children. #GroomerAwarenessMonth.”  It had been shared 157 times.

Even though I don’t personally “get” the appeal of being a drag queen, it still bothers me that someone would take the time to make and share a meme that is so obviously meant to create prejudice against them … to make them out to be predators.  I don’t think that’s fair or right.

First of all, I haven’t seen any evidence to support the claim that drag queens do, in fact, “crave an audience of children.”  Drag shows are very easy to avoid.  With little or no effort I have managed to avoid them completely. Pride events where you might, horrors, accidentally run into someone in drag, and drag shows themselves, are clearly advertised as such.  Most drag shows are clearly marketed towards adults.  If parents take their kids to a drag show – well, that’s their choice I guess – but the fact that a kid is present at a drag show is not evidence that drag queens “crave” an audience of children.

“Oh, wait,” some say, “What about drag queen story hour???” –  I think, ironically, that the drag-queen-haters conjured drag queen story hour with their own hatefulness.  I don’t think there would be any such thing as “drag queen story hour” if people had just left the drag queens alone.  I think DQSH is the result of drag queens feeling the need to demonstrate to the haters and the world, “Hey look, we are nice people!  We even read stories to little kids!”  Then I think they found out it was fun reading stories to little kids, so they kept doing it!  I have never verified this origin story with an actual drag queen – but it seems plausible to me!  What does not seem plausible to me is that reading stories to little kids in the middle of the day at the public library while parents and librarians are sitting right there watching is a form of “grooming.”  If it is, it is the dumbest possible form of grooming I can imagine.

“Oh wait,” some say, “I saw an article on the internet about a drag queen who really is a predator!!!”   Well, I saw an article on the internet that a boy scout leader really is a predator!

I would never claim that there is absolutely no chance a drag queen is a predator, just like I would never say there is no chance that a boy scout leader, or a Sunday School teacher, or football coach, or a politician is a predator.  There are predators out there and they come in all kinds of outfits – not all with sequins and feathers.  It is not any more reasonable to generalize that all drag queens are predators than it is to generalize that all boy scout leaders, or Sunday School teachers, or football coaches, or politicians are predators.

“But what if my son sees a drag queen, and he decides to become a drag queen?” – Here I think we get to a serious matter. Fear.  Fear and love mixed together.  I don’t think “drag queen” is actually contagious, but all kidding aside, I don’t think any parent wants their child to be considered a “weirdo,” to be the butt of cruelty, to be ostracized.  Sadly, those are all still legitimate fears if your child is outside the “norm” in any number of ways, but for the purposes of this post, regarding sexuality.   If this is your fear, by all means do what you think is best out of love for your children.  Of course, avoid taking your children to drag queen story hour if you think that is best for them.  But also, please resist any temptation to spread the very cruelty that you would not want visited upon your child.

Drag is not everyone’s cup of tea – heck, it’s not my cup of tea.  But, I don’t mind different people drinking different tea. I do mind the “tea police.”   Facebook posts like the one I described above are needlessly cruel and divisive.  Let’s quit posting them and sharing them.

If you don’t want to go to a drag show, don’t go.  I don’t, or at least I haven’t yet.  I don’t go to NASCAR, or the symphony, or Chuck E Cheese either, but I don’t feel the need to encourage bigotry towards people who do.

Hank Williams, Jr. used to sing, “… I’m for love, I’m all for happiness, and I’m for ‘if you don’t like it, can’t you just let it pass?’” Me too, Hank Jr., me too… except when it comes to spreading fear and hate about people who are not hurting anybody and just living their own weird lives.


  1. Carol Munn on June 6, 2023 at 9:24 pm

    Great post about the heart of the problem regarding drag queens, which is fear and bigotry. I support your laissez faire response. Let each person decide whether or not to attend drag. Not my job to police anybody else’s interests. Not my job to be their judge. Go Ashley!! I support you!!

  2. Ashley M on June 6, 2023 at 9:31 pm

    I appreciate it this more than you know. Also, we need to drag brunch soon…

  3. Carroll Fadal on June 6, 2023 at 9:33 pm

    So well said, Ashley. Thank you for your rational, reasonable post.

  4. Ferryn on June 6, 2023 at 9:39 pm

    Brilliant. Let’s send this to lots of local papers. After all, I just saw a story about small papers not having any reporters. This would be great for the editorial section.

  5. Britni on June 6, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    This is wonderful! Thank you friend!

  6. Andy Thornton on June 7, 2023 at 4:25 am

    I went to my first drag brunch last weekend. I thought it was weird, and I also think I’m weird, because I loved watching the queens perform and I loved watching the audience (many of whom were middle-aged white women) let loose and have a blast. It occurred to me that drag was becoming more accessible to a wider public, mostly as a celebration of diversity and yes, weirdness. We are all weird in some aspect. Why be ashamed of that? Drag shows proclaim, “Every one of us is weird, and shame is absolutely unnecessary.” Thanks Ashley.

  7. Sherry Flume on June 7, 2023 at 11:56 am

    I saw an interview of a drag Queen that made the simple point that it is “adult” entertainment. Period. Drag queens performing in a school or a child type venue is inappropriate. Period. I also have no issue if a man wants to dress up like a woman and perform somewhere the audience is other adults. Knock yourself out. High heels kill my feet. I suspect (my children have been adults for some time now so I am out of the public school loop) that most parents just want our schools to educate our children and insure that all are treated with respect and kindness and not have to worry if there is a drag Queen story hour. . I really don’t think the issue is banning drag queens. They have been around a very long time. The issue is the appropriateness of where they perform. It is a sexualized performance. And, yes, I have seen one, in San Francisco, about 40 years ago. It was weirdly entertaining.

    • ABT on June 7, 2023 at 2:25 pm

      Yes – see, that’s what I am saying too. I don’t think a school would be an appropriate place for drag Queen story time (unless the parents are fine with it) because that’s a captive audience…but good grief, otherwise, if you don’t like it don’t go.

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