The Right is screaming about drag shows this week, clutching their pearls over the comedic art form because it supposedly “sexualizes” children. Elected officials in Texas and Florida are reaching for their smelling salts over a family-friendly drag show hosted off hours last weekend at a Dallas gay bar.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has called for child abuse investigations of parents who take their kids to see drag queens, because … well, he can’t really say, but if the facts aren’t helpful, he can always have his press secretary lie for him.
See the photo up on the left?
That’s Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’s press secretary, evidently well suited for her job because she never met a lie she couldn’t spread with shameless chutzpah. She’s the woman who re-popularized the lie that LGBTQ people “groom” children for sexual abuse, a tactic Americans thought died out with scaremongering orange juice spokesmodel Anita Bryant back in the 1970s.
So what’s going on this time?
Yesterday, LGBTQ Nation reporter John Russell emailed Pushaw and asked for comment on Gov. DeSantis’s call for CPS to investigate parents who take kids to family-friendly drag shows like in Dallas.
The governor said, “You have these very young kids, and they must have been like 9, 10 years old, at a quote, ‘drag show,’ where they were putting money in the underwear of this…and that is totally inappropriate.’
My question: What event is Gov. DeSantis referring to? Has he seen 9- and 10-year olds placing money in the underwear of drag performers? Where specifically has he seen this?
I don’t know what Pushaw thought when she saw Russell’s query, but in her shoes, I would have felt trapped. The Dallas event the governor spoke of featured no underwear-clad drag queens and no stripping. No video footage shows kids stuffing money into the clothing of drag queens, for good reason — the kid-friendly-event organizers were sensitive to potential misrepresentation and announced a set of rules before the show started that included “no touching the performers.” This applied to adults and children alike.
The facts didn’t stop Pushaw
“Unfortunately for churnalists, people have eyes,” she tweeted publicly, with a copy of the LGBTQ Nation question on the left and a photo of a nearly naked woman on the right, with a little girl stuffing money into what looks like the woman’s gold lamé bikini bottom.
I don’t know about you, but if I saw that tweet, I’d presume it was a photo of the Dallas event, or at least a photo of a drag queen with a child.
But, no. Pushaw was lying. Baldly, knowingly, and for political gain. She manipulated a photo of a straight woman at a burlesque (strip) show and tweeted it out as if the woman were a drag queen.
Then Pushaw got caught, almost immediately
Queer legal analyst Alejandra Caraballo, a Harvard Law faculty member with bylines in Slate, Teen Vogue and Wired, spotted the press secretary’s lie almost instantly. Pushaw tweeted the photo yesterday at 5:13 pm eastern time. Caraballo debunked her at 5:31:
This was pulled from a widely circulated nazi meme 3 years ago of a facebook post from burlesque dancer who is a cis woman. This was not drag, nor did it happen in dallas. Care to comment why you’re resharing nazi disinformation and propaganda?
Caraballo included a screenshot of the Facebook meme as evidence. I found the original meme this morning, independently, with little difficulty, using Google photo search functions, which I can only imagine is how Pushaw found it.
But she must have seen the context when she did. She had to know the photo is not of the Dallas event and has nothing to do with drag queens. She tweeted it anyway, because smearing LGBTQ people is more important to her and her politically ambitious boss than being honest and thoughtful.
As of the time of this writing, Pushaw has neither deleted her dishonest tweet nor replied to Caraballo.
Some say Ron DeSantis is a smarter, more dangerous version of former President Donald Trump. Is Christina Pushaw as big a shameless liar as Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
Going by this episode and the whole “groomer” debacle, I suggest Pushaw is more shameless. You decide, but this is how it works, isn’t it? This is what the Right does today. They know if they lie shameless, loudly, and often enough, their supporters will believe them.
And right now, lying about LGBTQ people makes political bank for Republican pols.
Let’s talk about drag art for a minute, because truth matters
Drag is an art form with roots going back hundreds of years. Even though Ru Paul’s Drag Race has achieved a degree of popularity, many people seem not to know what drag is or seem to misunderstand what it means to queer people.
Drag is entertainment, stylized campy fun popular among cisgender gay men but increasingly inclusive of trans people. If you don’t like drag, that’s OK. I don’t like James Bond movies or beauty pageants. Nobody says I have to.
Drag doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s ridiculous on purpose. It’s high comic relief. That’s why some of us queer folks like it. It’s also probably why some of us don’t. To each their own.
Drag is not erotic art. It’s not stripping. It’s not essentially sexual, at least not anymore than any human art form is. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Since drag is camp, you sometimes find drag queens who do parodies of erotic art like burlesque. But if it’s drag, it’s got to be parody. Try to wrap your mind around that, because it’s important.
Drag is not always queer. Sometimes it’s even Christian.
Stop the pearl clutching! As LGBTQ Christian Esther Spurrill-Jones wrote this morning in Prism & Pen, the first drag show SHE ever attended was at a conservative Christian church. They didn’t call it drag, but it was, in every sense of the word. Nobody clutched their pearls — just like Christians don’t clutch their pearls when straight Christian Tyler Perry does drag. And when he’s playing Medea, that IS drag, boys and girls.
LGBTQ parents don’t take their kids to drag shows to sexualize them
They take them to share the joy of their culture, have fun, and laugh. Why should a child equate dressing up in a fancy costume, wearing a wig, lip synching, and acting ridiculous to sex?
What’s the connection?
There isn’t one, except in the minds of pearl clutchers who think LGBTQ culture and LGBTQ people are intrinsically toxic.
We aren’t, no matter how many lies Christina Pushaw tells.
Hey, Pushaw! All that sex and sex-abuse grooming you see? It’s in your mind. What say you get it out of the gutter?
James Finn is a columnist for the LA Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected].
The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished with permission.