Drag shows for kids are inappropriate. In Michigan, should they be illegal?

‘There Should Be A Law’ is the banner over every government overreach

“It’s not gonna lick itself!”

When news reports and pictures last weekend went viral from a Dallas, Texas, drag show for children, those words, big and proud in pink neon, were the first thing you noticed.

They were designed to be noticed, and Tudor Dixon, a Republican in the running to face Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November, sure did. At 9:37 p.m. on a Saturday night, Dixon tweeted,

“As Governor, I will sign a bill that creates severe criminal penalties for adults who involve children in drag shows. This type of behavior is criminal child sexually abusive activity.

We will make Michigan the toughest state in the country on child sex abusers.”

Dixon was responding to a tweet of images from the “Drag The Kids to Pride” show, which was billed as family-friendly. One picture depicts the children handing money to a drag queen. Other pictures from the event showed children putting money in a performer’s underpants, more strip show than drag performance.

Dixon’s reaction was fierce, and well-received in conservative circles. Finally, someone was pushing back against the sexualizing of children. Finally, there was a Republican offering a choice, not an echo of Gov. Whitmer. She might win, too.

Drag shows and strip shows for children are obviously inappropriate. But should they be illegal? Should Michigan be nation-leading in this regard?

First, some good news: Regardless of what you read on Twitter, drag shows for children are far outside the Overton Window.

But it’s when headlines are at their most eye popping, and when our blood is at a boil, that we should be wary of government-by-Twitter mob. On the highway to hell, there is a sign that reads “There Should Be A Law.”

Natalie Holbrook, 46, of Ypsilanti, has been attending drag shows since her early adulthood.

Holbrook now brings her daughter, 11, to family-friendly drag shows at Pride festivities, and said her daughter has put money into a drag performer’s shirt before.

Holbrook, like Dixon, and like myself, believes there is a such thing as an inappropriate drag show for children. She just draws her line differently, and believes that nudity, or shoving money down underpants, crosses it.

“I want my daughter to have a very good relationship with her own body and with growing into being a sexual being,” Holbrook said.

She does not see drag shows as a criminal act.

“I did not see the Dallas thing,” Holbrook said. “If it was inappropriate, it was inappropriate. But all drag is not inappropriate.”

Doug Lloyd is Eaton County Prosecutor and president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

Lloyd told Michigan Capitol Confidential that while he’s heard of legal cases involving fathers bringing too-young sons to strip clubs, he’s never heard of charges related to children at a drag show in Michigan.

“I’m not sure who we would investigate,” Lloyd said. “The performer, were they doing something wrong? Was it the parent or guardian who did something wrong?”

Lloyd said Michigan already has child abuse and criminal sexual conduct laws on the books. But any case would need to start with a call to the police, and a police investigation.

“”Prosecutors don’t actually investigate,” Lloyd said. “We take the information that’s provided to us by the police and then make a determination.”

“There’s a tendency right now to take anything happening in the LGBT community, and sexualize it,” Holbrook said. “They’re trying to equate every drag show with being a strip show, and that’s just not the case.”

Should there be a law? Be careful.

In September 2016, MSU student Mitchel Kiefer, 18, died in a car crash on Interstate 96 in Ingham County. The other driver was distracted.

Mitchel’s father, Steve, believes there should be a law against distracted driving in Michigan, and has pushed it for years. But reckless driving is already illegal. Why do we need a new law? Do police really need a new reason to target drivers?

In January 2019, a Dearborn family of five was killed in a wrong-way crash in Kentucky. The driver was drunk.

Later that month, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, introduced legislation that would require all new vehicles to be outfitted with an ignition interlock. The device prevents drunk drivers from starting a vehicle. This is good business for the ignition interlock industry, maybe, but it’s more big tech than we need in our lives.

The law cannot punish 230 million drivers because a sad, local story touched Dingell’s heart. There’s a reason the bill never passed.

In the early days of March 2020, the #shutdownmichigan hashtag on Twitter was filled with worry. Twitter is not real life, but when the notifications are streaming in, fast, it sure feels that way. And so Whitmer decreed: There Should Be A Stay-at-Home Order.

This is a progressive impulse. Every headline that upsets us should not result in a new law.

Before you say There Should Be A Law, ask first if the matter calls for men with guns. Every time you call the cops, at least one gun arrives at the scene. Is it worth it?

Even among true believers in COVID-19 lockdowns, their moral justification unraveled in May 2020, with the killing of George Floyd.

The object lesson couldn’t have been clearer: Any time the police are called, armed men arrive, and fatal force is possible. Whether for a counterfeit $20, as in Floyd’s case, or because teenagers are playing disc golf at the local park. A knee on a neck is always a possibility. Call 911 and anything can happen. We know that now. Let’s not ignore it because of a bad weekend in Dallas.

Not since the time before child labor laws has the American child been so unprotected. The problem is much bigger than drag shows.

Kids were held out of school during COVID as teachers and their union leaders touted the resilience of children. Students returned to mentally unstable classmates, school shootings and intermittent closures due to COVID flare-ups and threats of violence. Too often, the educators, coaches and clergy in positions of trust show themselves untrustworthy, or even predatory.

It’s not surprising, then, to see a mother like Dixon stand up. This is an important time, and an important conversation. If Dixon wants to lead it, she’ll need fellow parents like Holbrook at the table with her.

No, there should not be a law. Even if there was, who in Michigan would enforce it?

James David Dickson writes a Sunday column on government issues in Michigan. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.