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THIS GUEST OPINION PIECE BY:  Mikayla Nogueira is a communication student at Bryant University, as well as a makeup artist and a strong supporter of the drag community. She is also working this summer as a digital intern with WBSM and Fun 107.

Let me start by saying that I am writing this as a strong supporter of the drag community. That's primarily because I have been a makeup artist for nine years and am not shy when playing with colors, big eyelashes, and dramatic looks.

What does that have to do with drag? Well, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have been mistaken as a drag queen. Combine my deeper voice with my heavy makeup and love for fashion, and you may think I am just that: a drag queen. I have faced years of bullying because of my makeup, being taunted for being a "man in makeup." So it sort of put me in the shoes of an ACTUAL drag queen, and since then, I have stood by their side and supported them wholeheartedly.

As pride month is coming to an end, I think it is critical to reflect on what I have learned during the past 30 days.

I have always been an entirely accepting, non-judgmental, inclusive, and open-minded person, and to be honest, I thought most other people were, too. However, as I paid close attention to social media this month, I was proven wrong.

It has been a long battle for the LGBTQ+ community. They have fought for same-sex marriage, gay rights, equality, and to simply put it, freedom from oppression. It is true that we have come a long way, with same-sex marriage being passed by the federal government in 2015, the increase in pride parades and public LGBTQ+ events, and an openly gay male running for presidential office.

There has been so much positive change, but when I started to truly pay attention, I noticed that every step forward we take, we seem to take one step backward.

In this case, I am referring to the recent Drag Queen Story Time events on the SouthCoast. These events were highly promoted on radio and social media. The first took place in Fall River on June 1 to kick off pride month. The event was not taken lightly by the community, and neither is the upcoming Drag Queen Story Time taking place on June 29 in New Bedford.

So, what's the backlash? Well, this is the part that disheartens me and truly made me realize how many of us are still intolerant of the LGBTQ+ community.

On the 1420 WBSM airwaves, it has been a great topic of discussion. It seems there is a great lack of understanding of the events, as comments are made such as:

"Big lips and big eyelashes, I just see these men as clowns."

Well, clowns are performers, and makeup is part of a performance. So yes, call them clowns! In this case, they are performers who wear makeup and it all comes off at the end of the day. So, I somewhat agree, and well, I have never really seen anything wrong with clowns.

Then, when the New Bedford Drag Queen Story Time was announced on Facebook, some of the comments on the post read:

"I’m glad my children are pretty much grown with all this depravity going on. There is no way in hell I’d expose my children to this perversion!"

"Disgusting. Sexuality and drag queens have nothing to do with children’s learning and literacy. A man dressed as a woman reading to kids? For what? Trying to ram this sick agenda down kids’ throats every way they can."

"..Why bring in the queers..I don't get it.."

"They want to get it into the brains of very young children that this is all normal and everyone should strive to be whatever sex or perverted lifestyle they want---they gotta get in that brain of a young child---can you spell SICK!!!!!!"

And well, that is just a few. But I feel there is a strong lack of understanding, and there is so much more to it. Let's break it down:

Why are libraries doing this? Well, the first reason is that it is PRIDE month! A wonderful month to bring light to the LGBTQ+ community and allow them to share their stories, fight oppression, and be their authentic selves. The second reason is that literature is changing, for the better. Children's literature is becoming far more diverse, embracing a wide range of sexualities, genders, races, ethnicities, and more. Drag Queen Story Time was not created to push any type of political agenda, but rather it is an opportunity to share newer diverse literature with young children. Books are important, but unfortunately, they are not as widely used as they once were. Children would rather play games on their iPads than have a children's book read to them. In that case, this event is important because behavior is taught and learned by those who raise children and those who children are surrounded by. No child is born to be intolerant and ill-informed. Children are raised where they are taught how to think, how to feel, how to react, and who to accept. So, the younger we teach children to be accepting, the better. If anyone should be "exposed" to drag queens, it is children, because they are the most open-minded and able to accept and learn about the drag community in a positive and inclusive way.

Why can't it simply be a man reading the stories, why does it have to be a drag queen? This seems to be where most people are confused. So, let's clear it up. It seems that many people think being a drag queen is a lifestyle. Well, that's far from the case. Being a drag queen is a performance, it is a form of entertainment. It is similar to cosplay, which is where a man or woman dresses up to represent entertainment icons such as a comic book character, movie character, or video game character. Drag queens typically exaggerate femininity with the use of dramatic makeup, the portrayal of feminine gender roles, and exquisitely unique outfits. They do this solely to entertain on paid or volunteer occasions. When they are not entertaining, they take the makeup off, put on their everyday clothes, and go about their lives just like each of us do. So what is the problem? Have you ever dressed up for Halloween as a character who was not of your gender or sexuality? Have you ever been to or heard of Comic Con, where it is perfectly normal for a male to dress as Cat Woman or a female to dress as Superman? Why is no one making an issue about that, but everyone is making an issue of drag queens? Why did no one care when Robin Williams played a woman in Mrs. Doubtfire? Or when Tyler Perry plays Madea in his movies? It also seems as though there is a perception that drag queens dress in a provocative and suggestive manner. Well, I don't really see that as the case. They are more prone to wearing an evening gown than they are lingerie. They like to be bold with their fashion, they want to make a proud statement.

Why are WBSM and Fun 107 writing stories about Drag Queens when there are far more important things going on? Well, it is simple, we reported the events for Drag Queen Story Time as events of interest on the SouthCoast that people may want to attend. There are a plethora of stories posted each day, many reporting important local news, so feel free to read those as well on our websites and apps.

Drag Queens aren't going anywhere, anytime soon. You read that right! Let's face it, drag queens have been around for centuries, and they are here to stay. It's their time to shine, and they are. Whether it be the hit show RuPaul's Drag Race, the new hit song "You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift which gives drag queens the spotlight, drag queens taking on the cover of New York Magazine, or the new Drag Queen Story Time events, drag queens are taking society by storm. So if it truly bothers you, ask yourself, how does this affect you? Well, it probably doesn't. If you're intolerant of the LGBTQ+ community, ask yourself, why? There is probably no good reason. Some say taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on a Drag Queen Story Time event. Well, feel free to think this way, but drag queens entirely volunteer their time to participate in these events, and it is not a requirement for your children to go.

To end on a positive note, Happy Pride Month! I am sure drag queens of the SouthCoast are not going anywhere anytime soon, especially with National Drag Day coming July 16.

Remember, don't be a drag, just be a queen!

Editor's Note: 'SouthCoast Voices' is a series of guest opinions from newsmakers and other people across the region, on relevant issues that directly impact the people of Greater New Bedford and the surrounding communities. The opinions are solely those of the author. If you are interested in contributing, please contact tim@wbsm.com for more information.