One of the great things about moving forward is the idea of making progress. As human beings, we always hope we're getting wiser as we age. As a society, we always hope social progress continues to develop in the right direction. Some of us have different ideas about what that means or what direction we should take. But we're still highly opinionated nonetheless.
However, some opinions can be highly misinformed, thus making it harder for those being targeted. It's never easy to be misunderstood and it can be even more difficult when you're a child. The latest targets of such criticism are drag kids. These are children who do drag.
Drag is a form of creative expression which involves performance. The performer usually dresses as the opposite gender, although there are some female drag queens. There are also drag kings, which are women who dress as men. Drag queens dress in over the top outfits with lots of makeup.
I've been to a couple drag shows when I was in college, so I'm familiar with the more adult aspects of the culture. But there's something to be said about the kid who wanted to dress up. The kid who wanted to put on a wig and makeup. The kid who had a different way of having fun and escaping from the real world.
I have an understanding of this, because I was that kid. I was the kid who grew up idolizing female pop stars. This was not the norm for most boys. Most boys were fascinated by superheros or action stars. My brother ran around the house pretending to be Superman and Spiderman. I ran around the house pretending to be Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson.
When I was five years old, Gloria Estefan came out with a music video called "Everlasting Love." She was eight months pregnant with her daughter at the time. Needless to say, she couldn't appear in the video. So Estefan recruited a bunch of drag queens to perform in the video. They were each dressed in one of her looks from her past videos.
I remember my mother explaining to me what a drag queen was. She explained to me they were actually men dressed as women. I found that so interesting, because that's exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to dress as Gloria Estefan and every other pop diva at the time. It was a sense of validation that other men felt the same way I did.
I remember going over my aunt's house and she would let me play with her makeup. I would put on some makeup and wear a long wig. But it had nothing to do with sex. I didn't see any of it as sexual. When you're a kid, you have no concept of sexuality. It was just a way of playing dress up. It was a form of escapism and imagination that all kids have. Mine just manifested itself in a different way.
This is why those who criticize drag kids are doing more harm than good. In their mind, they think they're looking out for the child's best interests. What they need to understand is, every child is different. Not every child will conform to the gender norms enforced in our society. By denying this, we are only furthering a culture of toxic masculinity. Instead of allowing masculinity to develop naturally, we're creating adults who will be overly masculine due to insecurity.
Don't get me wrong, I think there are certain criticisms that are valid. I don't think children should be in bars performing in drag shows. Even if they have a parent or guardian with them, it's still a space meant for adults. These adults will be intoxicated or under the influence. These kids will inevitably be exposed to things they shouldn't see. I think that's entirely wrong. Sadly, it ends up giving validity to those who have a problem with kids doing drag altogether.
There are people who have a problem even when kids are doing drag in family friendly environments. If a child wants to dress in drag, I see no reason the parents can't allow them to do it at home. Let him put on drag shows of his own for the family. Maybe local libraries or youth centers can host drag shows with only child performers. This can give them an opportunity to meet other kids with the same interests.
One of the many unfair criticisms people have is this feeling of sexualization. They somehow think drag is sexualizing children. I think these people aren't familiar with drag or what it's even about. I don't think drag is inherently sexual. It can be sexual if the performer chooses to take it there. They can tell a crude joke or do a racy dance move. However, the art of drag in and of itself isn't sexual in nature.
Obviously, I understand how people can feel that way if a child is wearing a belly shirt. Some female pop stars can dress in a provocative manner. If a child is imitating that behavior, I can certainly see where critics are coming from. However, I think kids can do drag in a way that doesn't push the line. There is a way for parents to allow their child to do it with limitations.
I don't think we should prevent kids from doing drag altogether. It's a form of expression children can certainly understand and take part in. As long as a child is doing it in an age appropriate environment with age appropriate clothes, I see no problem. I think people who act like this isn't possible are ignorant. They're not educated on what drag actually is.
In order for this to change, we must educate them. In addition to this, these critics need to be willing to learn. That's the only way we'll make things better for our kids. That's the only way children will grow up with the freedom to develop their identity naturally. That's the only way to make any sort of social progress.