Drag queens appear everywhere now — public libraries, parades, and school classrooms. Even the signing celebration for President Joe Biden’s ill-named Respect for Marriage Act included a drag queen.
“Drag Queen Story Hour” is marketed as family-friendly entertainment you’d want to take your children to see. But the ideology behind drag queen culture merits a much deeper look. What used to be a common comedy sketch — men in drag — has become a vehicle for sexual politics that seeks to upend norms around human sexuality and the nuclear family. It’s important to grasp the dark intent behind this growing trend.
Drag queens are billed as a warm celebration of human differences. There are more than 30 chapters of drag queens in the United States seeking to introduce children to a new way of seeing sex and sexuality, often with readings in public libraries. As the Drag Queen Story Hour website explains, “In spaces like this kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where everyone can be their authentic selves.”
Journalist Christopher Rufo took a deep dive into what he calls “the real story” behind drag queen culture. We should think of drag queens, he says, as the footsoldiers for an ideology that deconstructs normative human experience, beginning with breaking the binary of male and female. In drag pedagogy, gender differences are invented categories that shackle good people to rigid stereotypes, instruments of oppression to be shattered.
Why the Push to Introduce Kids to Drag Queens?
Drag queens bust up these categories in people’s minds. Queer theory, once limited to the academy, found a ready medium in the form of drag queens. Gender theorist Gayle Rubin insisted in her landmark book “Deviations” that only very public and transgressive sex could liberate society from the oppression of gender. Drag queens became a medium with an underlying message.
We might nurse the hope that our children will get an education, find a husband or a wife, settle down and raise a family, contribute their talents to others. This has been the primary vision of human flourishing and the nexus of strong communities for centuries. It’s just this vision that drag pedagogy seeks to dismantle. The concept of “family” becomes just as fluid and moldable as that of “gender.”
Once society is liberated from traditional norms, then, supposedly, civilization can be rebuilt from the ground up. A new sort of goodness and equality will magically appear, one where gender and sexuality can be molded and fashioned according to individual desire.
Turn Taboos Upside Down
The image of a man in drag parading in a public library while holding the hand of a small child as he grabs his own crotch startles viewers. Drag performers such as Ru Paul have worked to soften the image of drag by toning down routines and pushing gender messaging to the background. But in the minds of ideologues, disruption is the point.
Drag pedagogy builds its justification on notions of “oppression.” How terribly unjust that married heterosexual couples are seen at the top of the sexual hierarchy, while unmarried and homosexual couples, and promiscuous gay men, followed by prostitutes and transsexuals slide sequentially down the rungs of social acceptance. Queer theory sets out to upend this sexual hierarchy and usher in a world without limits.
So old taboos must be made acceptable. What’s on the margins should be brought to the center of the stage. The assistant secretary for Human Health and Services needs to be a man seeking to pass as a woman. Male soldiers expected to fight in combat should also have access to female hormones, despite the weakening of their fighting capacities. Men and women can’t naturally prefer different things. That’s just an old trope. The recent hit movie “Enola Holmes” sports a 16-year-old girl set in Victorian England who, supposedly, wants to fist fight other women, as though a real woman has always wanted to fight like a man. In sexual politics, the goal is to break norms and taboos to serve an androgynous end.
Reconstruct Childhood Innocence
The most disturbing goal of drag queen culture is its determination to deconstruct childhood, robbing children of the innocence that protects their maturing process. Drag culture invades this protected space by pushing sexual content on children who, developmentally, would be baking cupcakes or playing soccer.
One of the first drag performers to popularize Drag Queen Story Hour was a college professor named Harris Kornstein, aka “Lil Miss Hot Mess,” who read his book, “The Hips on a Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish” to children’s groups. Kornstein, along with queer theorist Harper Keenan, wrote the go-to treatise on drag pedagogy, in which they explain that the goal of drag culture is to stimulate a queer imagination in kids by bringing “queer ways of knowing and being into the education of young children.” Drag is a useful tool in “reformulating children’s relationship with sex, sexuality, and eroticism.”
Healthy adults consider childhood nearly sacrosanct, a time for climbing trees, piano lessons, and neighborhood friends. Children are neither hormonally nor psychologically inclined to explore their sexuality. They don’t naturally worry if they are “nonbinary.” They must be primed, stimulated, dragged in that direction. When a child can’t rest in the pleasure of being a boy or a girl, when the foundations of being are deliberately shaken, is it any wonder so many kids are overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed?
Underneath the effort to deconstruct the innocence of children is the fierce belief that one’s actual identity is at stake. Sexuality is seen as the seat of your desires, and those desires will lead to the unveiling of who you truly are. It’s life and death stuff. Or as Carl Trueman notes in his book “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self,” if sexuality is the basis for identity then a person doesn’t just have gay sex, gay is who he is. This contrasts mightily with a classic Christian understanding of personhood in which your deepest identity transcends time and place: You belong to the God who created you male or female in His image.
So it might seem novel that a drag queen serves your brunch in Midtown Atlanta, or your public library hosts Drag Queen Story Hour for 5-year-olds. But this is not a neutral form of lively entertainment packed with diversity and feel-good moments.
As Rufo concludes, “This isn’t about ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusion.’ It’s about adult activists using the goodwill surrounding gay and lesbian social movements as cover for advancing extreme left-wing ideologies and turning children into shock troops for their gender revolution.” There is, indeed, a method to the madness, an end goal being served. It’s time to question and confront the sexual politics behind the glitter and high heels.
Paula Rinehart, LCSW, is a therapist in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the author of the book “Sex and the Soul of a Woman.” She writes about family and culture.