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“Drag Your Kids to Pride”: A Response from a Burlesque Performer and Parent

“Drag Your Kids to Pride”: A Response from a Burlesque Performer and Parent

I’m sure many of you have heard of the recent Dallas “Drag Your Kids to Pride” event and the subsequent outrage and protests. I wanted to give my perspective on the events—the perspective of a Burlesque Performer and parent—because I believe there is a lot more to say than just anti-LGBTQ vs. LGBTQ, more than Right vs. Left, more than homosexual vs. heterosexual…honestly, the list goes on forever.

But first, I want to be clear that I am speaking for myself, personally, and not for any other member of my troupe. I am not taking a stance, officially, with regards to my company, but I still felt obligated (by what, I’m still not sure) to speak out.

I am a Burlesque dancer. Technically, what I do falls under the umbrella of a sex worker. I teach pole dancing, oral sex techniques, lap dancing, stripping, and yes, I take my clothes off for money and adult entertainment. I am also a gay-rights advocate. In college, I was trained and worked as a diversity leader for LGBTQ students and I have continued that work to this day. I have also participated in many drag shows (both as a drag king performer, as well as an enthusiastic audience member). I have countless friends, family, and acquaintances who swing every which way, and I love them all. I am also a mother.

All that being said, I am genuinely baffled that this performance took place at all. Who organized this? If anyone knows, I would love to have them on the podcast so we can discuss the development of this event.

I honestly don’t understand. What was the intention behind this event? At best, it was to foster an open understanding of an incredible community of people and performers. At worst, well, it’s borderline pedophilia.

Please, be who you are and be proud of that fact, but children are innocent, impressionable, and vulnerable. As parents, we are supposed to be the ones to protect them from growing up too quickly, from confusing or unsafe situations. How would you categorize this event if not confusing, unsafe, and beyond their years? It was all those things, sugarcoated and hidden behind bright, neon lights, loud, popular music, and the misguided proclamation that anyone in opposition is a raging, close-minded bigot.

Well, I am here to say that I am not close-minded. I am not a bigot. And I understand and see both sides of this debate clearer than most. I don’t care where you fall on this debate—children should be protected. Children should be our first concern and last thought. And yes, our children will be the ones to create a new future of tolerance and acceptance, but not at the price of their innocence.

You can support someone without supporting everything they do. I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community, but I do not support this event. To the organizers, performers, and mostly to the parents of the children in attendance: What were you thinking?

There is a reason my shows are 21+ and it’s not because of the booze!

Sex is an adult subject, no matter where you fall on the spectrum or Kinsey scale. What happens between two (or more) consenting adults is perfectly fine, but notice I said “adults.” That is what makes pedophilia so horrendous—because it is targeting a group of people who cannot fend for themselves, who cannot decide what is right for themselves. It’s up to the parents to guide them (in time), not shove it down their throats to make amends for mistakes of the past (perceived or real).

Arguably, my son has seen me at dozens of rehearsals. He has seen me in some pretty random, and yes, “sexy” costumes, but at no point were those visuals overtly sexualized. Seeing me in a costume is no more sexual to my son than seeing me in the shower, or seeing me on the toilet, or seeing me in my regular underwear. And that is because I have created boundaries for us both. He is a child, barely four years old, and I shield him from what is beyond his understanding. I protect his innocence!

I am, obviously, not shy about sex and sexuality and hope to raise my child with open communication about these topics and love, kindness, and understanding for all people. Sex is natural! But outwardly advertising what should be an adult event to children is not only misguided, it’s wrong. I would never produce an “Itty Bitty’s Burlesque Review” for children (just writing that makes me cringe), even if I thought my child would one day become a boylesque or drag performer. And it’s not out of shame for what I do. It’s because he is a child and he doesn’t need to explore that side of himself until it is developed and appropriate.

I can think of a dozen ways this event could have been done more appropriately (because, yes, the name “Drag Your Kids to Pride” is a clever play on words…but it also denotes literally dragging your children to an event that is far beyond what is age-appropriate.)

Maybe it could have been a regular fashion show featuring drag performers where the sexualized costumes, dances, and movements were removed (for what I assumed was an obvious reason, but I guess not so obvious given the circumstances).

Maybe it could have been a G-rated parade with rainbows and glitter and happy people—a REAL G-rated parade, not some of the perverted adaptations of G-rated where people still wear sparkly genitalia hats or pretend that fetish performances are suitable for children.

Those are still a very big stretch (at best), but again, it all comes down to the intention behind the event.

If the intention were simply to promote community, to foster understanding, to “normalize” a lifestyle and art, to celebrate, then couldn’t all that be achieved without dropping into sexy splits while wearing patent leather and taking dollars from children under neon lights that read, “It’s not going to lick itself”?

What are we teaching our children when we support events like these?

  • Are we teaching them to disregard the subtle nuances that are conveniently left out of the dialogue?
  • Are we teaching them that they must be pro-everything or risk being judged and labeled anti-everything?
  • Are we teaching them that they cannot voice healthy boundaries for themselves?
  • Are we teaching them that it is better to sit quietly and uncomfortably and take abuse rather than stand up for what is right?

That’s not how I plan to raise my son.

Compassion, understanding, and acceptance can stem from letting people be who they are without coercing their futures one way or another. It is possible to build awareness and recognition without sacrificing your own integrity, or the integrity of an entire society.

In writing this, I am afraid of offending people I love, but who isn’t offended by something these days? For a country founded on free speech, we certainly try to shut down anyone who speaks differently than us. Quite frankly, it’s avoiding the difficult conversations that has gotten us here. Let’s have some real, honest conversations as intellectuals rather than jumping to emotional outbursts of blind devotion to a cause. Events like this are toxic—not just to our children, but to the community this event intended to elevate. And we have to speak up about what is happening rather than getting caught up in the “cause.”

In trying to celebrate what is essentially a core component of everyone—ie how we express ourselves both as individuals and as sexual beings—we have instead led our most precious population to ruin by exposing them to aspects of our culture without hard, defined boundaries.

In our efforts to be tolerant, inclusive, understanding, and accepting, we have forgotten that these attributes don’t begin in society; they begin at home. And what you teach your children at home is going to have a much more lasting impression than any event that you take them to because events like these aren’t designed for children—they’re designed for people who want to force children into their way of thinking.

It’s the worst kind of indoctrination. As parents, we need to focus on what truly is best for our kids and yes, we want them to be understanding of others and we want them to be the best kind of citizens, but we have to draw a line in how we achieve that and how we show them the world. There is a time and a place to teach kids about compassion and community, but we can’t force age-inappropriate events on them at the expense of their childhoods, in a society that is swirling with influences that are far above their mental, emotional, and physical capabilities.

The argument can be made, that if I don’t like it, I don’t have to participate in it, one hundred percent, but this isn’t an adult activity where, as an adult, I can choose whether or not I can participate. This is an activity aimed at children and a child doesn’t always get the choice (or understand their choices) of whether or not they are going to participate in something. They literally get dragged to these events. And there’s a big difference there, too.

We’ve got to protect children from the world around them. There needs to be healthy boundaries. That’s why big tobacco companies have been penalized for advertising to kids. That’s why you need to confirm your birthdate on adult websites surrounding alcohol and sex. That’s why there are so many regulations set up around children.

I, for one, am not big on being told what is or is not appropriate for me to teach my child, but common sense would indicate that children are not mature enough to understand and process all that is encompassed within an event like this.

I firmly believe you are entitled to nearly all your proclivities—there are a lot of experiences to be had out there—but not by our kids.

Let children be children. Let them grow into themselves without judgment, fear, or categorization—we want them to be themselves. They are the children. We are the parents. And it’s time we all acknowledged our part in this and our role as parents. We need to stop trying to “make nice” and instead focus on making our children safe, making their needs the priority, and making sure we speak up and speak out when events and situations go too far.

This has gone too far. I am speaking out because for the first time ever, I am ashamed and disappointed in my fellow artists and performers who made this event about self-celebration and gratification rather than (what I hope was) its true intention of creating a more understanding community.

Bourbon Layne, “A Warm Shot of Burlesque Whiskey”. Bourbon Layne is the most mysterious member of Cabaret & Cocktails. She’s sinfully sultry with a steamy sense of humor. She’ll wrap around you like a warm shot of burlesque whiskey, and leave you drunk and wanting more. Bourbon has a unique creative outlook and comes with an impressive aerial background to Cabaret & Cocktails.

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