On Saturday, a student-led drag show was held at Tucson High School titled the “School is a Drag, Show,” as planned by the school’s Q Space, a club for LGBTQ+ students. In response, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) said these shows should not be held in the schools.
“In my view, adults have first amendment rights to attend drag shows if they choose to, but they don’t belong in school,” Horne said via the phone to The Arizona Sun Times.
Even in the context of this being a student-led event, Horne said he still does not like the idea.
“I just don’t feel comfortable with that going on at school. I think it’s not a good influence, and, you know, if they want to do it in the evening, outside of the school context, for those who choose to be there, but it shouldn’t be in the school context, in my opinion,” Horne concluded.
Before the event, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) held a board meeting where people could comment on the event.
“Schools have a responsibility of keeping [age-inappropriate] materials out of the hands of children; both drag shows known to be found at these adult clubs are no different,” said Stephanie Kirk, an Arizona activist at the meeting. “We are the adults, and you are the children. Children can embrace their gender confusion without the drag shows.”
However, according to the School Boards Watchlist (SBW), a Turning Point USA project, those who spoke out at the board meeting were challenged. An anonymous Tucson resident told SBW that anyone who opposed the meeting “was made to feel like they were the enemy” and was teased and bullied by the crowd.
While there was opposition, many also spoke out in favor of the show, including a TUSD student called Sunday Hamilton, who organized the event. Hamilton claimed that, in this case, drag was a form of art and expression and does not harm those viewing or involved. Another student, wearing makeup and a costume, including a necklace with an aborted fetus, said he was never “coerced” into participating in drag and that this show is about “taking a stance” to show that drag is “an art form like any other,” and that the district supports queer students.
Nonetheless, the show ultimately went on Saturday. A report from Fox 10 Phoenix showed performers in costume dancing on stage while hundreds of parents in the audience cheered them on.
“This a chance for them to exercise their right to express themselves, come in here, and really be who they are,” said TUSD Governing Board president, Dr. Ravi Shah, at the event. Shah also said people should not equivocate all drag shows as the same, as he claimed a drag show at a nightclub differs from what was put on at the school.
However, protesters, like Arizona resident Linda Nelson, were reportedly turned away from the event. She said she had a problem with schools “sexualizing kids.”
Arizona State Senator Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) has measures in the legislature aiming to ensure kids are kept away from sexually explicit performances. Senate Bill (SB) 1028 would prevent a person or business from putting on an adult show where children could witness it. SB 1030 would require establishments that present explicit performances to receive an adult business license. Both bills have passed through the Senate and are currently in the House.
The Sun Times reached out to the Senate Majority Caucus for a comment but did not hear back before press time.
The Q Space club previously made headlines after former high school counselor Zobella Brazil Vinik, who helped coordinate the previous drag show, reportedly had an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old student.
– – –
Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tom Horne” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Drag Queen” by Greta Hoffman.