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Even If You Think It’s Wrong for Parents to Take Kids to a Drag Show, Don’t Report Them to Child Protective Services

Take your kids to a drag show, expect a knock at your door.

It won’t be The Village People.

Government intervention is an option Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was mulling out loud last week when reporters asked whether he’d consider legally punishing parents who bring their kids to a place like Mr. Misster. That’s the Dallas gay bar that held a “family friendly” drag event someone posted on Twitter.

(Which was basically like throwing a Molotov cocktail into a nuclear reactor near an active volcano on the 4th of July.)

“We have child protective statutes on the books,” DeSantis said. Framing parental brunch decisions as actual child endangerment might allow Child Protective Services to investigate people who take their kids to such shows. DeSantis said he would ask his staff to look into the feasibility of this.

But whether or not your idea of a great family outing is mimosas and chicken nuggets at a bar dominated by a sign that says, “It’s not going to lick itself” (surely they’re talking about inflation?), what DeSantis seems to be considering is something that should disturb any parent, no matter how proper.

The Nuclear Option

Why? Because no one ever thinks any parent is making good choices. How dare she not breastfeed? He put an Oreo in his son’s lunch? Who bought that kid an accordion?

Parents are constantly judged – and found awful – by almost everyone else, which is why investigations must be triggered only when parents are putting their kids in obvious, serious, and likely danger. Not just when they’re being foolish, goofy, pushy, lazy, self-absorbed or dumb. Which is most of us, at one time or another.

What’s more, weaponzing CPS against someone you dislike is already a huge problem. We don’t need the governor encouraging more of this. Currently, according to ChildWelfare.gov, “Most States maintain toll-free telephone numbers for receiving reports of abuse or neglect. Reports may be made anonymously to most of these reporting numbers.” That means jilted boyfriends, angry ex-wifes and just plain nut-jobs can and sometimes do use CPS as their personal (and free!) SWAT team.

Being Found “Innocent” Doesn’t Mean No Harm, No Foul

This affects thousands of families every year. In my own state, The Imprint reports, a 2022 study by New York’s Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition found that “7% of the roughly 150,000 reports to the Statewide Central Register each year are made by anonymous or unknown sources. These anonymous reports are 10 times less likely to be found credible.”

Those crank calls add up to a lot of wasted time and money – and something far worse. Being subjected to a child welfare investigation is “terrifying,” says my colleague Diane Redleaf, a longtime civil rights and family advocate. “It gives a sense of shame. It changes your judgements about what you can and cannot do.” Kids old enough to realize something’s going on fear they could be taken from their parents. Their parents fear how easily that could happen. Even if all charges are ultimately dropped, an investigation can tear a family apart.

There’s almost nothing more harmful you could do to a family than initiate a child abuse investigation.

And that includes dragging little Jimmy to a drag show every weekend for the rest of the year.


5 Responses to Even If You Think It’s Wrong for Parents to Take Kids to a Drag Show, Don’t Report Them to Child Protective Services

  1. SarCol June 13, 2022 at 3:19 pm #

    Huge difference between just “wrong” (as in, I think it’s wrong to push that kid so hard to play soccer) and HARMFUL.

    The drag shows are harmful. They are opening kids up to rape/abuse, and confusing their mental, emotional and sexual development.

    You might as well say “Don’t report parents for fondling their children.”


  2. James Bordonaro June 14, 2022 at 2:53 pm #

    I disagree with SarCol’s sentiments. I recently attended a drag show (my first ever) and found it to be an overhyped lipsync contest but certainly not inappropriate for children of any age. I fail to see how attending a performance would place a child at increased risk of sexual abuse or stunt one’s development. Frankly, I think the phenomena of drag shows may eventually fall out of favor as society at large develops greater tolerance for alternative lifestyles and gender fluidity. Regardless of one’s personal perspective, I agree with the essay’s author that parents — not the government — should be one’s to decide what is appropriate when the risk of immediate harm is not obvious.

  3. ClemenceDane June 14, 2022 at 2:59 pm #

    I agree that this does not amount to a CPS situation, though I think it is terrible judgment on the parents’ part. CPA is indeed the nuclear option and can absolutely wreck an entire family’s life.

  4. Elisabeth June 14, 2022 at 3:12 pm #

    SarCol…you don’t have a lick of evidence (speaking of licks!) for your assertions, do you? You’re just demonstrating Lenore’s point: we can all say “you shouldn’t let your kids do X because there’s a chance that they’ll Y, Z and even AA,” because we can find or even make up all manner of correlations in the data, but shouldn’t these choices be up to the parents?

    If I want to feed my kids nothing but chicken nuggets (not organic) and diet coke, let them be on the iPad for 4 hours a night, and take them to the firing range for their 9th birthday, I’m sure my relatives would have all manner of things to say to me about my parenting.

    But prove to me that those things are any more or less harmful than taking a kid to a drag show… I’ll wait… Oh, never mind, I won’t. Because you can’t. There’s no data to prove any of that does explicit harm (except maybe the 4 hours of iPad.)

    And should you call CPS on me for any of the above? Nope.

    And should you call CPS if you see a kid at a family friendly drag show? Nope. Not then either.

    MYOB and give parents the benefit of the doubt.

  5. Christy Keating June 14, 2022 at 7:36 pm #

    SarCol, I’d love to hear what evidence you have to support your assertions. As a former sex crimes prosecutor, certified parent coach, and child sexual abuse prevention expert I have not seen any research that suggests exposing a child to a family-friendly drag show causes harm. I’d love to see if you do.

    What we do know, and have ample evidence to support is the following:
    1. The more information children have about sex, sexuality, body parts, and relationships the LESS likely they are to be the victim of abuse. Having open and honest conversations in an age-appropriate way is protective; a well-informed child suggests to would-be predators that that child has open lines of communication with a trusted adult. They are likely to go elsewhere.
    2. The more information children have about sex, love, and relationships, the more likely they are to develop a healthy sense of their bodies and have safe, fulfilling relationships as adults.
    3. Children with open lines of communication about these topics are actually more likely to delay their first sexual experience, and more likely to be safe when they do.
    4. There is absolutely no evidence that seeing someone in drag will “make someone gay” or confused about their sexual identity. It merely exposes children to the factual reality that sexuality and gender identity means something different for different people. You may be uncomfortable with that, but that does not make it any less true.

    Now, if you don’t want to expose YOUR children to a drag show–that’s fine–don’t. That is well within your parenting discretion and I support your right to make that decision.

    But to suggest that a parent who does is doing HARM and subjecting them to rape and abuse without research to back up your assertions is both irresponsible and factually incorrect. And to further suggest that a parent who makes such a decision would be worthy of a CPS investigation where the child is likely to be interviewed is FAR more damaging than a drag show.

    If you want to have an honest and factually based discussion about what *actually* puts kids at risk of rape and abuse, I’d be happy to engage in that, but it isn’t this.