Boise’s LGBTQ+ community isn’t a prop for marketing campaigns

The outcry over kids and drag at the Boise Pride Festival is nothing more than homophobia disguised as concern ‘for the children,’ writes guest columnist Cady McCowin.

September 12, 2022 4:00 am
Boise Pride

Boise Pride signs are displayed in front of Cecil D. Andrus Park in preparation for the Boise Pride Festival that runs Sept. 9 through Sept. 11 (Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun)

Pearl-clutching was at an all-time high in Boise last week as newly appointed Idaho GOP Chairwoman Dorothy Moon whipped far-right Idahoans into a moral panic over the upcoming Boise Pride Festival’s subsequently canceled drag show for kids. 

In a misunderstanding of drag so egregious it would be funny were it not for the underlying insinuations, Moon claimed the show exemplified “the sexualization of our children and the perverse idea that children should engage in sexual performances with adult entertainers.”

Many, many experts and journalists have explained far better than I can how and why drag is not inherently sexual. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica classifies it not as a sexual proclivity, but as performance art. 

But let’s be real: Claims that a kids’ drag show, or drag story time, or any exposure of children to drag queens sexualize children or put them at risk are claims made in bad faith. They’re nothing more than an attempt to resurrect the thoroughly debunked myth that there’s an association between homosexuality and pedophilia. 

If Moon and her extremist supporters actually want to protect children, they may be interested to know that homophobia puts LGBTQ+ children at increased risk for violence and is a major contributing factor for the nearly one-third of LGBTQ+ youth who attempt suicide.

It’s appalling that our legislators are couching their blatant homophobia in concern “for the children.” Even more appalling are the sponsors that succumbed to political pressure from the GOP’s lunatic fringe and pulled their support from the Boise Pride Festival altogether. 

There’s a fine line for businesses between allyship and rainbow-washing. Corporate social responsibility is all the rage right now as businesses try to figure out how best to pry whatever money they can from the wallets of cash-strapped, skeptical, and media-savvy Millennials and Gen Z-ers. But even the most earnest corporate moral posturing can feel a bit cynical. When it’s merely performative activism, with no real effort to stand behind a cause, it’s legitimately gross.  

Marginalized communities like Boise’s LGBTQ+ community aren’t props for marketing campaigns. They’re real human beings facing structural injustices every day in this country. Supporting marginalized communities means having their backs when it’s hard, particularly when it’s not financially benefiting you and when the people marginalizing those communities loudly decry your support. 

If you or your organization only support marginalized communities when it’s convenient, when it makes you look good or when it brings you business, that’s not support. That’s marketing. And it’s disgusting that you think it’s OK to pretend you care about people who are struggling just to line your own pockets. 

Mad props to all the sponsors who continue to support the Boise Pride Festival and who understand that LGBTQ+ people don’t spring forth fully formed as adults, but start off as kids who have every right to enjoy and express their identities. You are the organizations that exemplify the warmth and kindness of the Idahoans I’ve had the pleasure to live among for the past 30 years. 

And to those sponsors who pulled their support to appease the extremist faction that’s currently debasing the Idaho Republican Party: Do better.  

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Cady McCowin
Cady McCowin

Cady McCowin is a fourth-generation Idahoan and registered Republican voter with a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Idaho. She’s spent nearly equal portions of her life in eastern Idaho, northern Idaho, and Boise.