Gabrielle Hirst, Stephan Hirst and Paul Hirst


‘We’re Not Child Abusers,’ Our 9- and 11-Year-Old Kids Are Just Having Fun Being Drag Queens

May 14, 2019

Kids play dress-up.

Boys and girls might slip into their mother's heels, and laugh as they try to awkwardly walk a few steps. They also might sneak into their mother's makeup and put lipstick all over their faces.

The act of playing dress-up is so normal — many people probably have some story, whether it's pulling on your grandfather's old suit or throwing on a sparkly dress because it made you feel amazing, or maybe just made you laugh.

Relevant Reading: Taking Your LGBT Child to Their First Pride

And that's what the parents of nine-year-olds Queen Lactatia and Laddy Gaga, and 11-year-olds Bracken and Suzan Bee Anthony, say their kids — who identify as queer — are doing, too. They want you to know that drag is dress-up, it's fun and it's an outlet like any other. They aren't, as prevailing internet comments might suggest, "child abusers" or "trying to make money off their kids." In fact, none of them are living off their kids and their bank accounts are being drained. And it's not about sex — that, they say, is on you.

Here's the advice these parents, who love their kids no matter what, wanted to give to parents everywhere. Because no two people parent alike, whether your kids are into drag or not.

"It takes a lot of unlearning to really not care what other people think. Your kids are happy and healthy and that's all that matters."

Jessica Melancon is a self-proclaimed "weirdo," and she and her husband are SHARPs (an anti-fascist organization known as skinheads against racial prejudice). They themselves sport looks that she believes some might find intimidating, but she says people quickly see past that when they actually meet them. Their son Nemis is Queen Lactatia, a nine-year-old draq queen from Montreal. She says, "There's no right or wrong way to parent. We're all doing a hell of a lot better than we think we're doing. Because at the end of the day, we've kept our kids alive. If you have a kid who is a little bit different, we're so conditioned to care what other people think about us. It takes a lot of unlearning to really not care what other people think. Your kids are happy and healthy and that's all that matters." She's taken this approach with comments on the internet, which she reads sometimes but never engages with. And she hopes that when Nemis is older, he'll continue to just enjoy his life in and out of drag, and not read the comments. 

"Take a breath before you react — always. That's been my thing. Try to craft those words carefully."

Suzan Bee Anthony is the drag name of an 11-year-old boy named Jason from Missouri. And his mom, Victoria Kerr, believes that parents should choose their words carefully. Because children are impressionable, they absorb things quickly and they take a lot on — whether that's your anger, your fear or how you view the world. She recommends always taking a breath before your words come out. 

And the "unlearning" Lactatia's mom mentioned is also something that Suzan Bee Anthony's dad Greg Kerr has undergone. He grew up in the bible belt with conservative, church-going parents — a community, he remarks in the documentary Drag Kids (airs July 25 at 9 p.m. on CBC), is not necessarily open to things like drag. But these days, you can find him teaching his son how to runway walk in their living room.

"My job is to create a safe space for my kids."

Dominique Hanke is the mother of 11-year-old Bracken, a bio or "hyper" queen from Vancouver. She just wants her kid to be happy and safe. "I have boundaries and they are impenetrable. The reasons I create boundaries is to protect my kids. But within that space, they get to live and be who they are. I don't dominate that space. We all want space to be individuals and to be understood. But kids also need that security and that line in the sand. There has to be a 'no.' My kids know what the lines are, and if they want to push them — we talk about it. I give them space to have an opinion, and if we fight — we take time, cool off and talk about it later." 

Relevant Reading: What I Wish My Parents Said When I Came Out as Gay

"Christianity is about how you treat your neighbour, not whether you go to church."

"Our kids are not free of rules and regulations, no matter how it might seem that way to others," says Gabrielle Hirst, the mother of Stephan who goes by Laddy Gaga and lives in Spain. And in an effort to guide, she turns to Christianity, with special emphasis on how to treat your neighbour, and the old adage of "do unto others." Gabrielle thinks that if we can get those two teachings right, the world would be the perfect place for kids to grow up. 

It's not difficult to see these parents as parents, because that's what they are. They just happen to have kids who get all dressed up, and sometimes perform for a captive audience. "All our kids know that no matter what, they are loved," says Gabrielle. "Stephan will shout, 'I hate you' and I say, 'well, that's a shame. I love you.'"  

But their reality is a little different from other parents. They have to deal with parents and non-parents who think what they're doing is abusive. And that they are letting their kids do something sexual. But Dominique wants to put this to rest: "[People] have this attachment between anything to do with homosexuality and the queer community with sex. They're not in lingerie. It's not sexual. They're dressing up. And people are trying to connect makeup with something sexual — but it's like, you're the one sexualizing the children. That's all on you and it's horrific." 

Gabrielle adds, "None of that is what the kids are thinking. They're thinking: this is who I want to be." 

Are you a parent? Are you a writer? Do you have a different opinion on this subject? Please reach out to us with a pitch here.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.