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Kids' drag show at Boise Pride Festival facing backlash

Boise Pride says kids' drag is a creative performance that empowers expression of identity. Dorothy Moon calls it a "perverse idea."

BOISE, Idaho — A drag show for kids, an event at the Boise Pride festival, has sparked backlash from the Republican party and far-right groups calling it inappropriate — but, children expressing themselves and their identities is empowering and builds confidence, says Boise Pride.

The drag show for kids, which is separate from the other drag performances, is scheduled to take place on Sunday at the Boise Pride Festival. The attention surrounding the event began on social media with far-right groups calling to protest the event. One post included a picture of a gun saying "Can't expect God to do all the work" with a message to others: "Sunday, 9/11/2022, time to start at the Fred Meyer pride parade."

Boise Police Department was made aware of these comments. Pride is also increasing their security at the event this year.

RELATED: Boise Pride Festival increasing private security ahead of annual event

On Wednesday afternoon, Dorothy Moon, the Idaho Republican Party chair, released a statement saying companies who sponsor pride are "financing the sexualization of our children and the perverse idea that children should engage in sexual performances with adult entertainers." 

"I call on all concerned Idahoans — and the lobbying groups that represent many of these out-of-state businesses who seek tax benefits and subsidies from our legislators, including IACI — to disavow this attack on Idaho’s children and to invest their sponsorship dollars in the Boise Rescue Mission that serves families, women fleeing abuse, and disadvantaged children. Children should be given the chance to live out a childhood free from violence, hunger, and the sexual appetites of adults," the statement said.

Zions Bank, a sponsor of Boise Pride, pulled out of the event Wednesday. A statement from the bank said they were unaware of the performance involving children.

In response to the backlash, Boise Pride released a statement where they said "The drag kids performance is a celebration of self-expression and confidence. The only perversion and sexualization of this performance are coming from extremists and people like Dorothy Moon, who are twisting it into something it is not." Minors have participated for years in pride, on and off the stage, it said.

The statement said that often, when younger people come out, they struggle with their identity and self-expression. Dressing in costume and performing builds that confidence and is a form of creative expression, it said.

"It’s not a radical liberal agenda to accept people for who they are. It’s human," Boise Pride said.

Additionally, Meridian City Mayor Robert Simpson issued a Proclamation about Boise Pride, where he established that they promote inclusion and kindness and condemn discrimination of any kind.

In a study published in 2021 from University of British Columbia, it showed drag story hours (also included at Boise Pride) and drag conversation provides an approach for how children can view themselves and gender in a form of expression.

"Drag can be thought of as a kind of queer praxis that may be especially well-suited to early childhood education, not because of any qualities essential to young children, and instead because early education is one of the few remaining school settings that encourages play," it said. It also expanded to say that queens interacting with kids during drag events offers healing and hope for those who faced transphobic and homophobic treatment as children.

The conversation surrounding drag and its story hours "offers an invitation towards deeper public engagement with queer cultural production, particularly for young children and their families," it said.

In a study published in 2018, researchers from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and Oklahoma State University found that participation in places like a drag venue may be beneficial for isolated or socially anxious people as well as the use of drag being a therapeutic tool for mental health. 

It found that drag is a way to “affirm identity, address social anxiety, and to connect individuals with a supportive, creative community” and the results stated that members benefited from drag being an expressive art form where performers could show their creativity.

"Drag is a powerful form of creative expression and offers a community to youth who are looking to feel accepted and loved, things they often don’t experience at home or at school. Seeing others like you on stage offers a beacon of visibility and hope for LGBTQ+ youth, and that is one of the reasons Boise Pride exists and why we celebrate Pride," Boise Pride said.

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