Meet Kween Kee Kee – the “baby drag queen” who is teaching his own teachers a lesson about gender identities.
Keegan, 9, lives with his parents and brother in a Christian suburb just outside Austin, Texas. He plays football and video games, and also likes to dress in drag. He usually goes by the pronouns he/his, but his mother Megan describes him as “gender creative.”
She told Reuters that she has always wanted to “let Keegan be himself.” Fuelled by his family’s support and guided by the mentorship of two real-life drag queens, Keegan has had the freedom to perform on stage as his drag alter-ego, Kween Kee Kee.
He gave his debut drag performance at the Austin International Drag Festival last year, and his dazzling array of costumes, wigs and dresses quickly gained him an Instagram following who encourage him to express his gender identity in all its forms. His account is managed by his parents.
Outside of social media, Keegan admits he’s been bullied by children at school, but he’s been fortunate to have teachers who listened and learned from him. His mother said: “We expected a lot of pushback from the school and we expected some intolerance, but we’ve been very surprised.”
None of his teachers received any formal training on educating gender nonconforming students, but have worked with “intuition and observation”, allowing Keegan bring up the subject “at his own pace.”
When his third-grade teacher asked students what they wanted to be when they grew up, Keegan immediately answered: “drag queen.”
“One of the students asked, ‘What’s that?’ and Keegan kind of said ‘I don’t know’ and moved past it,” said his teacher. “But I do see little, like, hints of him trying to make people aware that this is something that he is, something that he does.”
Keegan defied gender stereotypes from a young age and began wearing dresses when he was four. In the years that followed, his family made a collective decision not to impose typical gender roles in their home, and Keegan flourished.
He now feels comfortable wearing dresses and sparkly shoes to school, while continuing to exhibit strong stereotypically-male behaviour in the way he plays with his brother.
According to Out4Good coordinator Jason Bucklin, a gender-inclusive curriculum like Keegan’s can prevent the kind of early bullying that can evolve into homophobia by middle school and sexual harassment or dating violence by high school.
“It isn’t just about the transgender students,” Bucklin told Reuters. “It is about bringing everybody into the classroom and having the ability to feel successful.”
With this in mind, he says that selected schools in the US are beginning to use more gender-neutral language, addressing students by their preferred pronouns, including the gender neutral “zie,” “zir,” and “zirs.”
Some schools also allow students to easily change their preferred name or gender identity, although these schools are still far from the norm.