Sashaying Their Way Through Youth

“By opening their thriving subculture to children out of a misguided sense of ‘inclusivity,’ gay men risk losing a space for their expression at all — or alternatively, opening their subculture to Disneyfication,” the writer Kevan Copeland, a 38-year-old gay man in Toronto, wrote in a post on Medium.

But at least for now, kids are drag’s least commercialized niche. Desmond is Amazing has the most followers out of any drag kid. So far, his family has spent far more money than they have made, according to Ms. Napoles.

“I truly think 10 percent of his followers are there to watch every move he makes because they hate him,” Ms. Napoles said. In January a talk radio host reported Desmond’s family to Child Protective Services after he performed at 3 Dollar Bill, a queer bar.

Desmond has since pulled back on performing, though he will attend DragCon. Even there, among fans, he is not particularly looking forward to the crowds. When fans yell his name and swarm him for hugs, “it makes me anxious,” he said. He dreams of being an ornithologist when he grows up, he said, or a roller-coaster engineer.

Keegan, three years younger than Desmond, is less aware of judgments of the outside world. When his mother was growing up in the 1980s, she dressed like a tomboy and felt ostracized, she said. So when her two sons were in preschool and wanted to wear pink and take dance lessons, she was careful not to discourage them. (These days, her older son is intent on “making sure people know he’s a boy,” she said.)

When he was wearing his favorite pair of glitter shoes at school recently, Keegan recalled, a classmate said: “Those are girls’ shoes.”


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