“Good Morning America” recently hosted an 11-year-old “drag kid” known as “Desmond is Amazing.” Desmond Napoles made a grand entrance dressed as an adult woman and danced suggestively down a red carpet to rousing applause. Desmond finished his routine posed suggestively on the floor where he was met with more wild applause. The two hosts called him “trailblazing” and “courageous.”
Desmond’s parents, Andrew and Wendy Napoles were present in the audience. They have also allowed their son to dance for money and simulate stripping in an adult gay bar in Brooklyn called “The 3 Dollar Bill.”
What causes an entire audience and two hosts to take leave of their senses, and cheer the sexualization of a child? If Desmond had been a girl simulating a strip-tease, would the audience have applauded so approvingly? There was a time not long ago when they might have.
During the height of “Toddlers and Tiaras” and the Jon Benet Ramsey story, I wrote a book about my own experience in child beauty pageants, and growing up as a “Princess by Proxy,” a term coined by Dr. Martina Cartwright in the foreword to the book.
I was put on the stage at the age of 3, but I didn’t understand my true feelings about that or how similar experiences affected my development until I was well into my 30s. By then, I had clinical experience as well, so I used my story of a “stage mother on steroids” who lived through me as a case study to offer my professional analysis of how the early sexualization of children damages their development. I hoped the book would be a cautionary tale as I saw a growing social trend with disturbingly similar pathology.
I write this today with the same motivation and that is why I reported Desmond’s case to Child Protective Services.
It is not against the law to be a drag queen or to dislike them. But the general public has been so bombarded with epithets like “transphobic,” “homophobic,” or “anti-LGBTQ,” that they twist themselves into contortions to show their tolerance. As such, formerly reasonable adults turn timid and mute even when a child is being exploited and used.
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