A brief moment of controversy did not dissuade parents or the Medford Pride on Main organization from hosting the township’s first kid-centered drag queen event on Feb. 23.
In the midst of promoting Cupcakes With Queens, the pride organization was the subject of a blog post by Elizabeth Johnston, who calls herself Activist Mommy.
Johnston’s Feb. 11 post criticized the event and parents for allowing their children to “be influenced by a man whose primary function as a drag queen is to give overtly sexual performances in seedy nightclubs.”
Her post accused drag queens of subjecting children to sexual perversion and grooming. But those in attendance at the Birchwood Lakes Club House event refuted Johnston’s claims.
“When it comes to kids’ drag shows, everything is 100 percent family friendly,” said Justin Gibbs, president of Medford Pride. “It’s no different than taking your child to Disney World and seeing Mickey Mouse.”
Medford Pride member and drag queen Miss Redd, emcee of the Disney-themed event, disagreed with Johnston’s post, adding child friendly drag shows engage with the kids and “teaches them acceptance, love and introduces them through a new form of entertainment.
“There are people who don’t like it and don’t agree with it, and you know what? That’s OK,” she mentioned. “I’m not going to tell you about your own morals, or how to live your life, but just realize that there are people who are open to what we do and like what we do.”
Medford parents Kate Brady and Michael Gollotto commended Medford Pride for bringing a niche event to the area. Gollotto — a Birchwood Lakes resident with a non-binary child — said the community welcomed the event with open arms and rang his phone constantly about ways to help. His child, Mason, attends the Sequoia Alternative Program and goes by the pronouns they/them.
“I wish more stuff like this was going on when my child was little and we were able to go to stuff to have them realize this is normal for us and it is OK,” Gollotto shared. “Versus being in a community that isn’t supportive or agreeable to things like that.”
As children delighted in the cupcakes provided at the event, drag queens Miss Redd, Miss Easton Lux and Miss Heavens 2 Betsy Stratton donned intricate makeup and outfits to transform into classic Disney characters such as Mulan, Belle, Pinocchio and Tianna. The trio closed out the afternoon event with a performance of “Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King.”
Brady clearly disagreed with blogger Johnston, noting a “sad” misconception exists that Medford Pride wants to put children in harm’s way. Her view of the organization is that it promotes pride and unity and exists to show “we accept all people.”
“It’s a good time for a child to experience that everyone’s different and not everyone’s the same,” Gibbs said. “As a child grows up, they are going to meet people who are not like them. They’re going to meet people who are transgender or gay over time.
I think it’s good as a child for them to get exposed to that so it’s not a shock.”