Kingston’s drag scene has adult and children audiences

Drag queens display storytelling and comedic skills

Kingston is the emerging scene for new drag.

The laughter of children trickled from the Springer Market Square as rainbow streamers and glitter sparkled around Drag King Dare De La Femme as they performed a drag storytime in front of the audience.

People of all ages filled the concrete bleachers as the crowd gathered to hear stories about acceptance, gender, and all things drag.

Though many live drag events are commonly found in night-time bars, the Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL) supports the art form for all ages in the form of drag queen storytime.

The Drag Queen Michelle Tea began Drag Story Hour seven years ago in San Francisco and made its way into libraries in Canada. Drag queen storytime in Springer Market Square brought together families watching on as colored picture books were read aloud to the group. Despite the popularity of this event, these story times have become targets for hate and protest nationally.

On April 29 at Fort York Library in Toronto, protestors carried Canadian Red ensign flags and carried signs saying “drag is not for kids.” Taber Public Library, located in Alberta reported backlash for hosting an event on June 2 for being “too sexual in nature for our children.”

Despite the growing popularity of drag, inclusivity is more heavily critiqued when the audience is children. Protestors argue drag is over sexualized for young audiences and disagree with having families attend the event.

In an interview with The Journal, Kristen Lemay, manager of branches and collections at KFPL discussed the importance of providing a diverse and accepting community when hosting drag queen storytime.

She said the library wants to promote positivity and inclusivity for all ages. The library picks its selection of books based on the themes and lessons reflected for the event. Some may be more gender-focused while others provide an understanding of different ways of living authentically when the drag queens read them to the crowd.

It’s okay to Be Different by Todd Parr emphasizes the importance of looking at the parts about oneself they think could be different and realizing they’re okay.

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle is a repeat after me book that has the audience getting on their feet and moving their bodies. The classic tune, “The Wheels on the Bus” lends Lil Hot Mess’ book The Hips on the Drag Queen go Swish, Swish, Swish some drag queen glamour and fun to the event.

“Drag is a really great time to give kids a chance to see people who are living their authentic selves,” Dare de LaFemme said.

Drag storytime provides the opportunity to have younger age groups involved with the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Education comes out of the classroom and into the square in a creative space where children can have fun, Lemay said.

The daytime drag story hour was full of colour, laughter and books for families and younger audiences. But at night, the Grad Club offered drag with all its flamboyance, camp, and raunch for adult audiences.

Sitting on the first floor of the creaky wooden floor of the Grad Club, Sherry Anne Hex enters the red-draped stage, and Drag Me to Pride begins with the classic, “F—k you, B—tch.”

This iconic Kingston drag phrase is a response from the audience when asked how they’re doing.

Hex hosted Drag Me to Pride, a bar event alongside Eden Moore on June 14 at the Grad club and brought performers from both Kingston and Ottawa together on the stage.

“If I can entertain you, make you laugh, make you smile, or make you feel better about life. Even just a little bit. I’ve done my job,” Hex said in an interview with The Journal.

The community is vast, and despite Drag Me to Pride being performed in Kingston, the other drag performers, Tony Tequila, Honey Jack, and Abysskiss are based out of Ottawa and Montreal.

Hex invited Honey Jack to perform in Kingston over Instagram. There is a sense of home and roots in Kingston that can’t be ignored when stepping into the drag world. In the early ‘90s, Tyffanie Morgan was one of the only drag queens to perform at Kingston bars with little to no pay. Now, according to Hex, drag is exploding in Kingston, allowing both children and adults to get a glimpse into the events of pride.

“There were a few other performers starting out around the same time, but not nearly as many as we have now. When I started, I was almost instantly welcomed into the community,” Hex said.

She described her style of drag as very old school with a bit of Broadway, some camp and lots of shade. ‘Camp’ refers to something a little outrageous, but unique, and ‘shade’ refers to when the performer gets the audience to laugh at themselves. Hex called herself an insult comedy queen—with love and kindness.

“It’s like when you spank someone and then rub it in. That’s the general comparison I make to my style of drag.”

Despite Hex being from Hamilton she didn’t choose bigger cities like Toronto or Montreal as her home base. She chose Kingston because there was an opportunity for her to be on the open stage without the pressure of constantly competing for shows.

“If I had been doing drag anywhere else, I wouldn’t be nearly as far along in my career as I am in Kingston.”

Though she is influenced by old Broadway legends like Ethel Merman and drag stars Mrs. Kasha Davis and Jinkx Monsoon, drag is personal to her.

“Drag is truly a love letter to my grandmother and mother […] my grandmother loves wearing ’50s swing dresses, pearls, big glasses, and really funky heels,” Hex said.

While performing at the Memorial Centre Farmers Market for Drag Bingo, Hex saw many kids in attendance.

“I think drag now more than ever is about kindness and community,” Hex said.

“There was this one little girl just looking at me wide-eyed and with a big, goofy smile on her face. That’s just the reaction you want.”

In regard to the Kingston drag scene’s unique essence, she said it’s incredibly diverse in the variety of performances the audience can see.

“You get a buffet of drag that you don’t see all the time. In big cities like Toronto and Ottawa it’s very much popstar, pretty fashion model.”

Hex loves the drag scene because she gets to see the whole crowd laugh at her comedy. She gets to see them laugh so much they forget to breath.


children, Culture, drag, Storytelling

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