BOISE, Idaho — This week we have heard a lot from the Treasure Valley community about what a drag show is, what happens at a drag performance, and what people expected to happen at the now canceled ‘kids drag’ event.
In recent days we have heard a lot from everyone, but the actual drag community themselves.
For perspective on drag shows, the local community, and the controversy surrounding Boise Pride, KTVB sat down with Ashe Jones, a member of the local drag and LGBTQ community.
Ashe spoke about what performing in the drag community looks like in Boise, and what was actually planned for the now canceled event.
“I have been a drag king and one of the founding members of the LezBe Kings Drag Collective since 2019. So I've been a part of helping grow the drag queen community and the awareness of it,” Jones said.
So, how does the drag community describe drag performing?
“Drag is an amazing expression of art. It dates back so many years, even centuries, that we have people that get to play with different personas, with gender, with anything that you can think of. It's an artistic expression, just like you would see in a theater or a play,” Jones said.
Critics of the event continue to accuse the Boise drag community of ‘grooming’ children, exposing them to sexually explicit content. Some going as far as claiming that children would be stripping on stage for adults. Organizers say that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“There is no way we would even allow something like that to happen. I have been a part of all ages shows before and one thing that every person that's been a part of it, whether you're a performer or you're behind the scenes, the main tone that we want to keep whenever we have more than anybody that's over 18, if we have kids and so forth, we want to make sure that the tone is one that is an all ages or radio friendly, if you will,” Jones said. “We want to make sure that the songs are appropriate. There's not suggestive tones. The costuming is made to be something that you can maybe see at Disneyland or Universal Studios. It's got something that's more welcoming for everybody.”
Similar to how movies or theatre work, organizers explain there is a spectrum of drag performances.
“That would be a perfect comparison. I would not take any of my nieces and nephews to certain movies that I would take my friends with. But there are still movies that I would go and take them and I know they would enjoy scene because they're meant for all ages,” Jones said.
Controversy surrounding Boise Pride continues to take a toll on the LGBTQ community, members say.
“A lot of anger, 100%, a lot of anger because these kids are heartbroken. These are kids that they wanted opportunities to be on stage and just be themselves. That is now taken from them. There are not a lot of opportunities or venues for them to do that, and there's a lot of sadness because now we're having to tell these kids, we're sorry for your safety,” Jones said. “We either do not want to have you on the stage or we're even questioning if we want them there because of all of the hate speech we've been hearing and all the threats.”
Critics of the ‘kids drag’ show have characterized it to be a sexually based performance involving minors and adult themes. Organizers say that was never the plan, and never would have been considered or discussed.
“What the event would look like is the parents of the kids would let their kids pick out whatever outfit they want to wear, do a little bit of makeup because they are on stage just like you would a play, play whatever song that child shows and that child just gets to dance like they would a pageant or a recital, but they get to express themselves instead of having a structure. So in a recital your instructor may have given you your costume, uniform and so forth. That's the child gets to choose whatever they wanted, and that was it. As soon as they're done, they go offstage. They hang out with their parents or their family. Go enjoy the rest of pride,” Jones said.
Critics of Boise Pride and the canceled performance are using images and videos from around the country to show their point — that kids will be dancing and dressing inappropriately or be exposed to hypersexualized adults. Supporters of the event say this is a familiar playbook to them being criticized without the full picture being shown.
“If they're cherry picking, they're only going to be able to show the narrative that they want because they're not looking at the entire picture. They're not putting everything into context. What we do in bars such as the balcony or somewhere bar is not what we would do in front of children,” Jones said.
The Idaho LGBTQ community is facing messages accusing them of grooming young children and being pedophiles in general. These are serious accusations. Accusations that members of the LGBTQ community in Boise say they are no strangers to. They say they have continued to defend themselves against outlandish claims that have no basis in reality.
“We find, especially in our community, we found everything from if you're an adult, they'll throw slurs out. Hateful words that obviously I'm not going to repeat. But I've heard several times in my life when they can't get footing that way, they will go towards the vulnerable. We're protective of our children. They're going to try and hit us by attacking us and accusing us of things with our children, because they know that's going to be something that will rile up and get angry,” Jones said.
“We will want to fight back because you're making a blatant accusation that is completely incorrect. But it's also because they don't understand things. If they don't know how to understand us, there's going to be that divide and they're going to use everything that they can to try and get under our skin just to get their message across. When it comes down to it, the accusations themselves are not only blatant lies, but there's something that are very damaging and harmful because that takes away the spotlight from actual pedophiles, from actual people that could be harming children,” Jones said.
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