Earlier this summer, I was thrilled to see our local public library once again offering a robust summer reading program and calendar of fun events for kids and teens. We love our library and have always counted ourselves fortunate to have such a terrific resource so close to our home.
Then, I noticed some buzz on Facebook about a particular course being offered for teens: drag 101 with one of central Ohio’s fabulous and award-winning drag artists, Selena T. West. I was tickled to see this was being offered. As the mother of an artist, drama and makeup enthusiast and overall creative soul, I think Z would absolutely adore attending something like once she’s old enough.
Fortunately, the majority of the comments I saw come across my social feed were from local folks speaking out in support of such a creative offering. Unfortunately, the critics were vocal and hateful in their comments and made me ashamed to live here. I don’t know how people who profess to be Christian can utter such hate speak, ignorance and intolerance!
I was proud of the library for standing up for free speech, diversity and inclusion even in the face of opposition. But then the side of hate did something truly unconscionable: the library received anonymous threats of violence and had to cancel the event. In other words, the haters and ignorant bigots won. I was devastated.
But not for long! Thankfully, a core of supportive, progressive individuals have banded together to get the event moved to a private space, Secret Identity Comics in downtown Delaware. I’m happy to take our 17 year old to see Selena’s Drag 101 presentation – I only wish my creative 9 year old could come along for the fun, too. Oh, and did I mention that national media are covering these shenanigans in central Ohio? Oh yes. Be proud.
News flash: drag performers may be sassy and sexy during a nighttime performance at a club or bar, but in a setting like this you can expect the most demure, discreet and charming manners and speech imaginable. I assure you there’s far more sexualization of children at a beauty pageant or dance recital than at an educational program put on by the library – and far more chance of pedophilia within your average Catholic church.
I get it. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. But then SEEK to understand – ask questions, do some research, maybe even attend the event. Don’t simply strike out in fear, hate, intolerance and bigotry just because it’s not something you personally have experience with or understand!
As most people who know me would attest, I’m an outspoken supporter of all things LGBTQIA+ and a lover of rainbows, diversity and tolerance. But if I’m being honest, I haven’t always been this way. In my senior year of high school I was “saved” on a Campus Life trip and was a practicing born-again, evangelical Christian through several years of college. During that time, I didn’t know much about being gay, transsexual or nonbinary and I may have even mistakenly bought into the “lifestyle” myth – the erroneous belief that being LGBTQIA+ is a choice and not something innate we’re born with – for a short while.
Thankfully, my life’s path then brought me into contact with many diverse people and my mind began to expand and open more and more as friends trusted me enough to come out to me. I met more friends in the LGBTQIA+ community and ultimately, in my mid-30s, became best friends with a wonderful trans woman who taught me so much about what being a woman really means. Today, I have absolutely no doubt that God makes all of us uniquely the way we are and that we all are, in fact, “Born This Way” a la Lady Gaga.
Before I met my dear friend, I believed I was open-minded and LGBTQIA+ friendly, but secretly I still had a lingering fear of trans and nonbinary people that I blame on horrendous videos from Dee Snider and Twisted Sister back in the ’80s (I honestly used to have nightmares about him). I found the idea of a man in heavy makeup or women’s clothing very disturbing on some level, and I mistakenly associated that image with trans people. To a degree, I was tainted by the intolerant, uneducated and closed-minded views I’d encountered in my past. I didn’t yet have the life experience to teach me that was wrong.
Once I actually met someone who is trans, I grew to understand and appreciate her perspective and it made me open up, grow, love more and fear less. Plus a few fun nights out with friends at gay bars convinced me that drag queens and nonbinary folks are not scary or nightmare-inducing like Dee Snider, but rather beautiful, inspiring and amazing!
I love that today, kids grow up with a far broader view of gender, sexuality and identity than any generation has before us. Some lucky LGBTQIA+ kids today don’t even have to “come out” of a closet, because they’ve been blessed to grow up in a time and place where it’s okay to be exactly who you are. Only time will tell if Z will end up being lesbian, straight, bisexual, pansexual, transgender or something else uniquely her – and I am confident we’ll love her the same no matter who or how she turns out to be.
If you’re interested in attending the Drag 101 course offered by Selena T. West next week, you can sign up on Facebook. And if you’d like to share your own experiences in a tolerant, loving and inclusive way, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.