Drag for kids is not the same as drag for adults: local queen

Performers harassed at story hour determined to focus on the helpers not the haters

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By Cala Ali

“If I’m at a bachelor party and they are paying me to be crude and fun, I’m going to give them that but I’m not going to give the same performance to four-year-olds,” said The Unstoppable Conni Smudge.

Smudge was flanked by signs reading “Protect our kids” and “Drag isn’t for kids” outside the Coquitlam library earlier this January, when performing at drag story hour.

The artist has been performing for children over the past 10 years at other libraries, private venues and schools across the North Shore.

However, it’s only in the last five years that Smudge has felt this kind of pushback.

This Tuesday, Ontario’s NDP put forward a private members’ bill to draw 100-metre safety zones around drag events.

However, this doesn’t stop people from creating online communities on Facebook and other chat board platforms who organize protesters to show up outside drag story hour venues.

“I think it’s people’s preconceived notions of what they’ve seen in nightclubs and bachelor parties,” Smudge said. “I curtail my performance to the audience.”

What can drag teach kids

Olivia Vee, who hosted a drag story time event last July at The Honey Dip Studios on Granville Island, says that there is often a misconception with drag that it is only for adults.

“Some parents don’t acknowledge that drag is a very rich, multifaceted art form,” said Vee 

Monique Carlos, a mother of four from Surrey, took her children under the age of 10 to Vee’s story time event.

She says there are benefits to teaching young children about drag. 

“I think it gets them the information they need to be able to be respectful of other people, it doesn’t have to be particularly people in drag, but you know, the differences that they might notice,” said Carlos.  

 Vee said if she were approached by a parent who was weary of their child attending a drag event, she would invite them to have a conversation to discuss why they feel the way they do. 

The president of a charitable organization that supports parents of LGBTQ2S children (PFLAG), Colin McKenna, said that drag encourages kids to be exactly who they are.

“That’s the message. Don’t be afraid to be you.” McKenna said, “I wish someone had told me that at their age, as it would have saved me many years of trying to be someone I wasn’t.” 

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