By D’Anne Witkowski
For my mom’s 63rd birthday my sisters and I took her to Drag Queen Bingo. She won a round and ended up on stage where she very proudly proclaimed that she had five children and three of them were gay. The drag queen, Detroit’s own Sabín, responded, “Bitch, what were you eating in the 60s?” Everybody laughed, including my mom.
My 7-year-old son obviously didn’t go to the 18+ event. But we told him where we were going which prompted the question, “What’s a drag queen?” I explained that a person in “drag” is in costume, and that a drag queen was usually a man playing the role of a very glamorous woman, almost like a cartoon character.
“Oh, okay,” my son said, as if it was no big deal. Because it was no big deal.
Had a child posed the same question to Laurie Higgins, however, I suspect much pearl clutching would have ensued.
Higgins, who covers cultural affairs for the Illinois Family Institute, is not a fan of drag queens.
Writing for the IFI webpage on May 25, Higgins sounded the alarm that drag queens were targeting children! By reading to them at public libraries in New York and Chicago.
“Pray for our nation’s little ones,” Higgins writes, lest they “end up at their local library or bookstore for story time with drag queens.”
Forgive me if I expected “pray for our nation’s little ones” to be followed up with something about hunger or gun violence. But nope, it’s drag queens.
You know that saying, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention?” Well, in this case, it’s, “If you’re outraged by drag queens, you’re not paying attention to the right things.”
Higgins was especially incensed that a drag queen named Lil Miss Hot Mess (who Higgins insists on calling “Mr. Mess”) dared to read a book called Worm Loves Worm, a book where two worms fall in love and get married regardless of expected gender norms, to “children too young to think critically but old enough to be indoctrinated with lies by deceitful and feckless adults.”
Higgins takes specific issue with Worm Loves Worm author J.J. Austrian, picking apart a 2016 interview he did on the Lu and Bean Read podcast.
In the interview Austrian says, “Boys can wear skirts. Girls can wear pants. I’m not a cowboy but sometimes I wear a cowboy hat.”
Higgins pounces on this bit. “Austrian is unwittingly treading on dangerous PC territory here. In referring to ‘boys’ and ‘girls,’ he affirms the dreaded—and to many trannies, mythical—sexual binary.”
First of all, transgender people (not “trannies” you jerk) and drag queens are not the same. Secondly the idea that those who are trans or gender fluid want to eradicate the very idea of “boys and girls” is silly. Higgins chooses to see any deviation from gender norms as some kind of perversion and a threat to the binary she holds so dear.
Higgins continues, “When [Austrian] said that he wears a cowboy hat despite not being a cowboy, he implies that boys who wear skirts are not actually girls. He inadvertently face-planted onto the concrete truth.”
Uh, no, that isn’t what he is saying. Wearing a cowboy hat doesn’t make you a cowboy, unless you identify as a cowboy. Putting on a skirt doesn’t turn anyone into a girl, regardless of what is between their legs. That’s not how gender identity works. That is how costumes work, though.
Which brings us back to drag queens.
It must be nice to live such a comfortable life that you see drag queens reading books to kids as threatening. In the words of Bianca Del Rio, “Not today, Satan.”
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.