The only original feature is that the narrators are artists – often of the male gender – who adopt exaggerated codes of femininity using wigs, shiny dresses, stiletto heels and makeup.
The idea is far from incongruous in a country where the practice has become widespread, thanks in part to the success of the television contest “RuPaul’s Drag Race”.
“Drag Queen Story Hour”, launched in 2015 in San Francisco, is nevertheless the nightmare of the right, which considers it, at best, activism and, at worst, a spectacle of a sexual, dangerous nature. for the “innocence of children”.
This disagreement is about to become law. Last week, Tennessee lawmakers passed a highly controversial bill that would severely restrict drag performances in public places or in front of children.
Local Republican Senator Jack Johnson, sponsor of the bill, swears that its sole purpose is to “protect” the very young. “Some shows, movies and places are not intended for children,” he stated in a statement.
If the bill is signed by the governor, it will be the first of this Republican crackdown on drag performances to finally pass. But it probably won’t be the last.
Texas, Kansas or Arizona. in more than a dozen states, legislators have proposed similar texts.
Blaine Conzatti, who helped draft a drag queen law introduced Monday in Idaho, is convinced that drag shows are necessarily “sexual in nature.”
They fall into the same category as “strip clubs” or “pornography,” said Conzatti, president of the Christian group Idaho Family Policy Center.
Conzatti is aware that he is part of a national movement, which in his opinion is due to the popularization of these events.
“Ten years ago, no parent would have imagined watching a drag show in public with children present,” he says.
Jonathan Hamilton, director of “Drag Queen Story Hour”, believes that although drag “has its origins in queer nightlife”, it has “many levels” for different ages.
Hamilton was the first drag queen to take part in readings in New York. “When I’m in drag, I feel more outgoing, funnier, braver,” which “makes the story better,” she says. “And kids love fabulous and over-the-top.”
Opposition to drag shows sometimes takes a violent turn. In 2022, the LGBT+ rights organization GLAAD recorded 141 protests or threats against drag shows.
The far-right group “Proud Boys” regularly attacks these events, even sending armed protesters to intimidate spectators, as happened in Ohio in December.
In mid-February, hooded members of the group yelled homophobic slurs at parents entering a suburban Washington library, according to media reports.
In New York, San Francisco and Texas the same scenes are repeated. And, in response, counter-demonstrations are becoming more widespread. In Washington last weekend, protesters with rainbow umbrellas lined up outside a library, forming a colorful line to protect the participants who had come to listen to the drag queens.
Equipped with speakers, they played Disney hits “The Lion King” and “Enchantment.” It was a way of reminding them that, for them, these acts must continue to be, above all, children’s things.