The Rosedale Center’s Shop Till You Drag event is poised to turn the food court into a catwalk on May 19.
Mall management asked Flip Phone – the Twin Cities' premiere provider of everything from drag brunches to dance parties – to put on a family-friendly show. There will be famous queens from Rupaul’s Drag Race and local stars, plus shopping, makeup, shoes, glitter – everything malls and drag have in common.
Flip Phone director Chad Kampe says all was set for a rollicking good time… until he noticed some weird comments on the Rosedale Center’s Facebook page.
“Why do they think this is a family friendly event?! Unbelievable and so very disappointing!”
“I am appalled! Have you run out of recruits that you have to seduce children whose minds are not even matured enough to make an adult decision? Despicable behavior on your part!!!”
“Ah, those people would be in a state mental hospital if we still had them.”
Kampe's seen this kind of thing before. Last year, he helped the St. Paul Public Library system put on its first drag story times, with glitzy queens reading books to kids. The same kinds of sentiments began to pile up online. They claimed drag was inherently sexual or kinky or “inappropriate,” and that it was going to indoctrinate ruin kids.
For the record, it didn’t. In fact, it was standing room only, the library’s most successful event of the year.
Kampe soon discovered these new comments seemed to have a central instigator: a Facebook group called Child Protection League Action. It calls itself a “nonprofit organization that works to protect children from exploitation, indoctrination, and violence” by “mobilizing the public.”
Earlier this week, the League posted about the Rosedale Center drag show. It accused the mall of “normalizing degrading sexual costuming and performances that are found at gay bar scenes,” as well as “targeting” kids. It urged followers to contact mall management and businesses.
Kampe says the event is kid-friendly, featuring Top 40 songs, with no scanty costumes or raunchy humor. In other words, it will be more child friendly than “walking past a Victoria’s Secret store.”
When he noted the League's objections on Facebook, he asked readers to “visit their page and fill it with love and joy about the show.” He also asked them to reply to some of the “anti-LGBTQ folks” commenting on Rosedale’s Facebook page.
“Let’s flood them with kindness!” he said.
Many did. They posted about how excited they were, how drag can be fun and kid-friendly, and that it’s all about “joy, self-expression, self-exploration, bravery, acceptance… love, and sequins.” Kampe estimates that about 200 commenters came to his aid.
The League responded back… by screenshotting Kampe’s post and urging its own followers not to be “silenced,” “for the sake of our children.”
“This is what bullying looks like!” the League’s post began. Kampe was bringing in “an army of trashers” to “target” them. “They make it clear: ‘We are after your kids,’” it continued. (The League didn’t respond to interview requests.)
Kampe asked them to take his photo and name down and reported the page. They did, eventually, claiming “the Drag Queen featured in our initial post objects to being publicly displayed!” (It should be noted Kampe is not a drag queen, but he’s dabbled in the past.)
Rosedale Center has remained supportive throughout, and Kampe thinks the League might have inadvertently boosted sales. Tickets are half sold out already.
If this is anything like last year’s storytime event, the supporters will come out in droves, and the haters will stay behind their computer screens. Not one screamer or protester turned up last time this happened, and Kampe doesn’t expect any this time, either.
“It’s going to be a big love fest,” he says.