‘Drag Kids’ doesn’t celebrate the ‘true self’; it pushes hyper-feminization and hyper-sexualization on kids

If we can see the problem with sexualizing girls in beauty contests, surely we can see the similarities in “drag kids.”

The CBC’s recent, baffling obsession with “drag kids” is reaching new heights. A teaser for the CBC’s new Drag Kids documentary, scheduled to air on July 26th, promises to offer “a glimpse into the glamorous lives of four of these dreamers — also known as kid drag queens — as they meet other drag kids for the first time.” Images of these “drag kids” show four children, aged 10-12, loaded up with makeup, false eyelashes, wigs, and heels. A boy on the top left, Nemis Melancon-Golden, appears particularly sexualized, dressed up as some version of a cowgirl Barbie. “Their colourful journey is studded with high heels, makeup and car singalongs. It’s also fraught with hardships, from backstage meltdowns to the hate and harassment that comes with being a kid who likes to dress up,” the write up explains.

Via the CBC: “Clockwise from top left: Nemis Melancon-Golden, a.k.a. ‘Lactatia’, 10; Jason Kerr, a.k.a. ‘Suzan Bee Anthony’, 11; Bracken Hanke, 12; and Stephan Hirst, a.k.a. ‘Laddy GaGa’, nine, star in the new CBC documentary Drag Kids.”

But of course this is not simply about “dressing up.” Every kid loves playing dress up. Most have some version of a tickle trunk full of costumes and their parents old clothes. It is great fun. But Drag Kids is about much more than just playing dress up.

These kids are learning hyper-feminization, and hyper-sexualization, and being told this is about “expressing their true selves.” The CBC (and liberal culture at large) has reframed “gender” (and, by association, a particularly sexualized version of femininity) as an empowering choice individuals make. They explain:

“Even in the last 10 years, the way people talk about gender has changed a lot.

Rather than just male or female, more people are viewing gender on a spectrum.

Kids have more freedom to define what gender means to them, however masculine or feminine it may be. Some people may avoid gender labels entirely.”

Putting aside the fact that Canada’s leading news media outlet seems not to understand the difference between sex and gender, the CBC frames this sexualized hyper-femininity as authenticity. The performance is “the real you.”

“Drag has helped me express myself in a way that I’m not able to in my everyday life … to walk my way down the road of self-discovery and figure out who I am as a person,” 12-year-old Bracken Hanke explains.

Ironically, the trailer for the documentary reveals precisely the opposite: that this “true self” — this path to finding your authentic inner you — rests solely on external perception and validation. This is something that troubles me, in general, with regard to the way young people have been raised, essentially, on social media. Platforms like Instagram, especially, but Twitter and Facebook as well, have fuelled a drug-like dependence on “likes,” and have taught a generation of young people that nothing is private, and that nothing matters unless it is both public and validated by the public. Young people curate their lives not for their own personal enjoyment, validation, self-worth, or even interest, but in order to present a false image to the world around them. Whether that false image is an airbrushed, sexualized image posted on Instagram, or a tweet signalling their virtuous politics to their followers, it’s all done with the perception of others in mind, first and foremost. Actual authenticity — actual real lives and real people — are completely devalued. An ugly face and ugly thoughts don’t gain positive attention online.

This new reality is summarized in disturbing perfection by 10-year-old Nemis Melancon-Golden, whose drag name is “Lactatia.” “I perform in front of crowds now and they cheer, so I know I’m doing alright,” he says. This strikes me as an obviously sad and backwards way to judge self-worth, or whether or not we are on the right track, personally or socially. If our entire sense of worth and value is rooted in crowds cheering (or our audiences “liking” our social media posts), what happens when the crowd stops cheering? This is not how one builds self-esteem. Indeed, I believe this achieves the opposite.

I feel sad for these kids, and angry at the irresponsible parenting at play.

In the trailer, Nemis’ “momager” explains: “I would love for Nemis to just be able to not have to explain why he’s wearing lipstick or why he’s got nail polish on… To find kids who are just like him, with the heels and the makeup and the clothes and dancing and singing — it’s like a piece of a puzzle that has all come together now.” We hear her words, while on screen we see an image of a young boy wearing a long blond wig and false eyelashes, dressed in a pink, jewelled bodice, meant to display cleavage. His lips are puckered and he tosses his hair. Nemis’ mother has dutifully immersed her child in a world that normalizes and encourages the hyper-feminization and hyper-sexualization of kids.

 

Bracken’s mother, Dominique Hanke, has labelled her daughter “queer” in order to justify her drag hobby.

“All those kids that are living in those households, suppressing who they are, they’re the ones at risk,” Hanke says. “There’s a huge suicide problem and self-harm problem with queer youth specifically.”

“These kids are meeting in places so they can express who they are in a community where they know they are a part of something. If you watch the documentary, these kids are so happy and so secure. I love seeing these kids be true to who they are — and knowing they’re safe.”

Her words lead us to believe not only that this performance is authenticity, encapsulated, but that to not encourage children to put on stilettos and learn how to twerk will lead them to suicide. It’s a dangerous concept, pushed by the trans activist movement, that says that if parents do not allow their child to do whatever they wish, and to not validate their every belief and request, is harmful — even deadly. Beyond that, at 12 years old, Bracken has a public Instagram account, leaving her even more vulnerable to predatory men than young girls already are in this world. At an age where kids need protection, her mother seems to have put her right in the spotlight, all the while claiming this must be done in the name of keeping kids “safe.”

To be clear, I’m all for kids dressing up and singing and dancing. My favourite thing to do as a kid was to put on my Peter Pan costume and perform the entirety of Peter Pan: The Musical for my family and guests. But why on earth these parents are encouraging their kids to learn stripper moves and put on stripper heels to perform for crowds of adults, I do not know. I suspect it has something to do with media outlets like the CBC — what used to be the most respected news source in Canada, before the folks running the show started smoking PCP for breakfast — pushing the narrative that anything inserted under the “gender performance” or “gender identity” umbrella is automatically good and progressive.

Surely, if we can see the problem with sexing up young girls in beauty contests, we can observe the similarities in “drag kids.”

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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