Thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race, the art of drag has exploded into the mainstream arena. No longer an underground art form almost exclusively enjoyed by the LGBTQ+ community, drag is now enjoyed by people of all genders and sexualities, and by default, has opened up a discussion about the fact that gender, as well as sexuality, really does exist on a spectrum.
In the not-so-distant past, drag queens were often confused with transgender people. In reality, drag is a performance art that can be enjoyed by people of all genders and it does not necessarily reflect a desire to transition – although it can be a stepping stone for some transgender people. (However, even though performing in drag and being transgender are not the same thing, it’s worth noting that drag queens should be addressed by pronouns that reflect the gender they are presenting as.)
Now that the 10th season of Drag Race has drawn to a close, drag is more popular than ever, and it has fans from all walks of life – including many children who have been inspired by its queens to embrace what makes them different.
It’s no secret that growing up isn’t easy, but it’s particularly challenging for members of the LGBTQ+ community, so Drag Race‘s popularity can only be a good thing, especially as so much prejudice unfortunately still exists.
One of Drag Race‘s younger fans is 11-year-old Leo. Like most children, his understanding of gender was very much influenced by societal norms, although his mother Leanne did allow him to dress in female clothing when he was younger.
Sadly, as Leo grew older, Leanne was criticized for letting her son wear female clothing and decided to encourage him to pursue more masculine activities. As a result, she attempted to foster his love of cars and took away his makeup.
But this unknowingly led Leo to discover Drag Race when searching for what he thought would be cars drag racing on Netflix. And the rest, as they say, is history, and both Leo and his mom have now embraced his love of drag.
To further open up a discussion about enabling children to be who they really are, Leo and his mom appeared on the British daytime talk show Loose Women, with Leo making an appearance as his drag alter ego Violet Vixen.
Explaining the appeal of drag to the show’s five hosts, Leo said that he feels “more like himself” when he’s in drag.
Leo’s mother Leanne, however, admitted that she did initially mistake the 11-year-old’s love of drag as a desire to transition into a girl, saying, “From my ignorance, I assumed that that’s what he wanted. It’s not at all.”
“But, actually, he’s really open anyway, he really clearly just says, ‘I’m a boy, I like being a boy, just because I’ve got a penis doesn’t mean I can’t wear a dress’. He just wants to show everyone it’s OK to be different. That’s what he taught me.”
But Leanne was slammed by other parents for letting her son embrace his authentic self:
However, when conforming to societal expectations comes at the price of your happiness, it is not a good thing, and Leo’s fabulous makeup and vivacious personality quickly won over the hosts of Loose Women when he strutted onto the show as Violet.
The show’s hosts, like Leo’s mom, wanted to let the 11-year-old know that he was accepted, and they arranged a special surprise for him by having Drag Race alumni and Celebrity Big Brother winner Courtney Act record a special message for him.
“I’m loving all of the conversations I’m seeing online, all of the support and all of the love for you and you’re expressing yourself with so much color and fabulousness,” Courtney said to Leo in the message.
Overwhelmed that his hero had been contacted by the show, Leo broke down in tears of joy.
“You’re also inspiring a conversation about how silly it is to apply a gender to a piece of clothing,” Courtney, who has previously met Leo, said. “Why do boys have to wear boys clothes and girls have to wear girls clothes?”
“Can’t we just wear the clothes we feel like wearing? Makes sense to me. Makes sense to you too. Love you,” Courtney said before concluding the message by blowing the inspirational 11-year-old a kiss.
Despite clearly being an extremely happy child, Leo and his mom were slammed on social media.
“#loosewomen I think you’re confusing ‘Drag Queen’ with ‘Little Girl’ Loose Women,” wrote one Twitter user.
Because Leo is so young, some people believed his mom Leanne was at fault for allowing him to pursue his interest in drag.
“It’s Not Normal, F*cking Mum Happy Just To Be On Telly, 11 Year Old Drag Queen, Needs A Slap. #LooseWomen,” wrote @Kevlo_Man.
Thankfully, Leo received more love than hate online in response to the interview.
“The comments being made on the #LooseWomen hashtag thread about the 11-year-old drag queen are shocking,” wrote @SoDanAmazing. “Why does it fill you horrendous people with such rage, anger and negativity? You sad that he’s doing what he wants & being showered in praise? Not everyone lives in hate!”
In fact, Leo appeared to even change some people’s minds about allowing young children to dress in drag.
“I didn’t agree with an 11 year old [sic] drag queen and dreaded the interview. But seeing that child strut his stuff on stage – he looks so happy and that happiness is priceless #LooseWomen,” wrote @butterfly_2403.
Not all of Leo’s critics had a problem with his drag and some simply didn’t like his attitude in the interview.
“I already don’t like that kid,” remarked @BigBaz94208732. “Nothing to do with the drag queen stuff, he just looks like he’s a little sh*t. #loosewomen”
Some Twitter users, however, echoed our sentiments exactly, with @PaolaOeste writing, “11yo drag queen on #LooseWomen is giving me LIFE.”
One of the best things about being a child is that you are free to explore and learn as much as you can before you have any real responsibilities. That’s why it’s so important for children to be allowed to dress in whatever clothes they desire, and while some will grow out of it, others won’t, and that’s totally okay. Everyone has the right to be who they really are.
If you’d like to keep up with Leo’s incredible drag, you can follow him on Instagram here.