The Boise Pride Festival, an annual event that has been held for more than three decades, drew intense backlash this year over its inclusion of a “Drag kids” show that features children as young as 11 years old.
“You have watched the Queens and Kings and now it is time to see the Kids,” an ad for the event read. “A drag show like none other the Drag Kids range from ages 11-18 and are ready to bring it all to the Boise Pride Festival stage! Come and cheer them on as they bring drag to the younger generation!”
Zions Bank, Idaho Power, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) were sponsors of the festival but ended their support in the wake of popular outrage against the inclusion of children in inherently sexual performances.
In a letter sent to Boise Pride, IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen said the sponsorship was causing “confusion” about the department’s stance on the issue.
“DHW’s sponsorship of Boise Pride 2022 has led to some confusion about whether DHW endorses specific event activities involving minors during this event,” Jeppesen wrote, noting that the withdrawal of sponsorship was meant to “avoid any confusion regarding DHW’s support of such activities.”
In response, Boise Pride said they decided to “postpone” the Drag Kids show originally scheduled for this Sunday.
“While the vast majority of our sponsors and supporters have voiced their support for the Boise Pride Festival and the Drag Kids program, we have made the very difficult decision to postpone this performance due to increased safety concerns,” the organization said. “The health and well-being of the kids, their parents, and the attendees of the Festival are our priority.
“We support the kids 1000% and their choice to be themselves, stand in their truth, and express themselves. They are brave, beautiful and deserve their chance to be in the spotlight, and we want to give that to them at a later date.”
Boise Pride didn’t specify exactly what caused their safety concerns, although some opponents of Drag Kids have been discussing on social media about potentially showing up and staging a protest.
Haley Williams, a spokesperson for the Boise Police Department, didn’t indicate any specific threats related to the festival, but said the agency works with event organizers to “create security plans and carefully assess concerns,” just as it does with any other special event.
Republicans Condemn ‘Sexualization of Our Children’
Idaho Republican Party chair Dorothy Moon condemned the event, calling it an “attack on Idaho’s children.”
“Out-of-state companies promise to bring investment and jobs to Idaho. Instead, they are financing the sexualization of our children and the perverse idea that children should engage in sexual performances with adult entertainers,” Moon wrote in a statement released Wednesday.
Instead of sponsoring the Boise Pride Festival, Moon said, individuals and businesses that wish to take advantage of Idaho’s tax benefits and subsidies should take their sponsoring dollars to the Boise Rescue Mission, a Christian charity that operates a network of women’s and children’s shelters.
“Children should be given the chance to live out a childhood free from violence, hunger, and the sexual appetites of adults,” she added.
Democrats Support ‘Diversity and Inclusion’
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, a Democrat, released a statement late Thursday in support of the festival.
“I appreciate the actions the Boise Pride Festival is taking to protect everyone who will join in their celebration this weekend,” McLean said. “The inflammatory rhetoric of the past few days has put a spotlight on the critical need for our community to have a conversation about standing together in times like these to encourage, embrace, and support the diversity and dignity of all people.”
Idaho Democratic Party also affirmed its support of the event, accusing the Republicans of promoting “hateful” rhetoric.
“In the face of hateful rhetoric, bullying and extremism, Idaho Democrats are not intimidated, we are resolute,” it said. “We support the Boise Pride Festival and its celebration of diversity and inclusion. Idaho Democrats will continue to fight for the right of every Idahoan to be proud, love openly and live authentically.”