Imagine going to your public library around the holidays. You load the kids into the car and prepare for a morning of fun activities.

When you arrive, you notice an adult dressed in slightly over-the-top clothes with ruby-red cheeks and shiny black leather shoes reading stories to a group of kids. The kids are having a good time, requesting some of their favorite stories and laughing at the funny parts.

The reader may be a little over the top, but it’s clear that they’re being flamboyant to bring joy to these kids.

What did I just describe? Depending on the day, it could either be Stories with Santa or Drag Queen Story Hour.

Although those two events are essentially the same, the mere existence of drag events motivates some folks to anger. My newsfeed is full of stories from all over the country of homophobic groups showing up at what would have otherwise been peaceful family-friendly drag-related events to disturb and harass participants.

Some reports indicate that members of the white supremacist hate group Proud Boys have physically assaulted participants while shouting things like “groomer” and “pedophile.” At other events, alt-right extremists come bearing arms in an attempt to scare the event to a screeching halt.

But in the Twilight-Zone-like reality we live in, the armed terrorists who assault strangers aren’t the target of newly suggested legal reform – the drag queens are.

In at least five states, newly proposed legislation would make it illegal for drag events (defined in the legislation as an event where someone dons clothing, makeup or accessories normally attributed to the gender opposite of what the performer was assigned at birth) to occur in public spaces, stating that all drag performances are “adult, sexually explicit content” unsuitable for minors to view – no exceptions.

Does that mean the female librarian can’t fill in for the Santa impersonator if he calls in sick? If an elementary-age student played a role in a school play typically performed by the opposite gender, would such legislation include this as “adult, sexually explicit content”?

The argument that “if it’s drag, it’s sexual” is the most updated version of a well-worn argument used by conservatives: namely, anything related to the LGBTQ+ community is inherently sexual and, therefore, unsuitable for children.

We saw the same language in 2016 when Disney announced that Finding Dory would include a lesbian couple. Conservatives were inconsolably angry that Disney was putting “sexual content” in a PG-rated movie.

This controversial couple got two seconds of screen time, walking along the sidewalk and returning a sippy cup to a baby who dropped it. Where’s the sexual content exactly?

Saying that all drag and LGBTQ+ content is sexual is like saying that all straight content is inherently void of sexual content. We only need to skim Netflix’s offering of shows like Bridgerton and Outlander to know that’s not true.

But the threat of legally banning drag people from public spaces isn’t just about double standards in the entertainment industry. It lends itself to safety concerns for drag queens and all members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially for transgender, nonbinary and other folks who don’t have a traditional gender identity.

Drag is a performance art, and drag queens dress as a character they’ve created; genderqueer people are dressing as their authentic selves.

Chris Sanders, executive director for the Tennessee Equality Project, discussed in a recent interview his concerns that law enforcement officials or more dangerous groups may not be able to tell the difference between a performer dressed in drag and a genderqueer person simply dressed for their day.

That leads us to ask anxiety-inducing questions daily:

  • If I don a tie for dinner with my wife, will the restaurant refuse to serve us?
  • If I don’t shave my (very real) chin beard before visiting that rural town, will I get arrested?
  • If I’m assaulted for simply dressing in clothes that represent me, will I make it home alive?

One only needs to look at the statistics regarding the murder of transgender folks and shootings like the one at ClubQ to know that those fears aren’t exaggerated.

When legislators target marginalized groups through their laws, they encourage queerphobic people to continue violence against those marginalized groups. They put us in real, daily danger, sacrificing us on the altar of pandering to their base under the guise of protecting children.

“Protect the children” is a tactic that conservatives have used for decades to justify violence against people groups they look down upon. It was the same rhetoric used to justify segregation in schools and to keep women out of the workforce.

Imagine what kind of country we’d live in if “protect the children” actually meant caring for children: Every child would have sustainable housing, eat three meals a day and not worry about kids at school bullying them for being “different” (in other words, not white, straight and cisgender).

Queer folks and drag queens are thinking of the kids. They’re thinking of themselves as queer kids, believing that no one else in the world was like them. They’re thinking of how much brighter their childhood would have been if they’d seen a drag queen.

When they get to the library, they’re thinking about how they can make a kid’s day through an art they love.

Drag allows performers to embrace and showcase qualities of themselves that they normally hide, to better understand a different perspective on life. How is that different from what God did when God inhabited the earth as Jesus Christ?

Jesus is God in drag. God is not human but chose to put on the elaborate makeup of human skin in order to better understand humanity.

God’s drag persona Jesus Christ allowed God to connect with people in a way that God wasn’t able to do before. God’s drag persona imbued the world with love, compassion and healing the likes of which humanity had never seen.

When we see drag performers say, “Let the little children come to me,” spread compassion through family-friendly events and disrupt the status quo through their radical inclusion, should we not strive to imitate them the way we strive to imitate Christ?

They’re doing a better job imitating Christ than most Christians I know. We could learn much from following their example.

First John 4:18 states, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear … The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

If we allow politicians to continue to use fear to motivate us to physical and emotional violence against marginalized groups, then we allow them to weaken our relationship with Divine Love.

In order to strengthen our connection to God, we must be willing to see the divinity of God in all of God’s diverse children.

Right now, we especially need to see the divinity of God’s drag children, as they are in need of protection. Imitate Christ and let them come to you.

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