Former supermodel Tyra Banks is producing a series centered around teenagers exploring their gender identities and participating in a drag show, with the apparent goal of providing a platform to "express" themselves.
The six-episode "Generation Drag" premieres June 1 on the Discovery+ streaming service. The show follows five teenagers and their families as they prepare to perform at Dragutante, a nonprofit hosting drag show events for trans-identified children and teens.
Viewers will follow teenagers Jameson, Noah, Vinny, Bailey and Nabela as they "anticipate their biggest drag performance at Dragutante."
In a statement to Deadline, Banks said that the teenagers featured in the show are "bravely navigating coming into their own in a world that can be very challenging and not always accepting." The executive producer said it was "beautiful" to see the teens' parents and siblings support them.
Discovery+ released an April 26 statement, telling viewers that they will see the "teens juggle the pressures of being young adults, while pursuing drag greatness."
The streaming service also claimed that the series will show parents "learning how to guide a child who wants to embrace drag" and stepping outside their "comfort zones" to "be there for their children who are still finding themselves." Discovery+ listed adjusting to new pronouns, shopping for platform shoes, and performing alongside their children in a drag show as ways parents could express "unwavering support" for their kids.
The show has drawn concern from critics, who believe that drag shows are about "hypersexualization."
"Anyone that has seen a drag queen performance recognizes that it's usually a flamboyant and highly caricatured treatment of femininity and also highly sexualized," said Jay W. Richards, director of the DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.
"So the very idea that you would have any kind of drag for young kids, I think it's just absolutely outrageous."
Richards told The Christian Post that he believes a series about drag performances for kids could increase the "social contagion" of gender dysphoria, noting that children are "impressionable." He said that he would not be surprised if that were the producers' goal in creating the show. He warned of an "ideological cementing" imposed on kids through social media and even their parents.
A 2016 study titled "Gender dysphoria in childhood" purports that 61-98% of children suffering from onset gender dysphoria naturally grow out of it when they reach puberty.
While that finding has been promoted by conservatives and state-level politicians, critics contend that the data point is being misused by policymakers and the study's lead author has acknowledged that the finding was not the study's primary focus and doesn't provide a basis to calculate the percentage of children whose gender dysphoria persist with gender dysphoria into adulthood.
However, other studies have also suggested that a gender dysphoria diagnosis doesn't persist for many into adulthood.
Proponents of allowing youth to transition at a young age argue that such studies are often overblown, and many gender specialists say that "social transition" is better for kids who believe they are transgender. This includes allowing kids to change their names, pronouns, and dress accordingly to their gender identity, even in children as young as three.
"There are virtually no other situations in which adults simply accept the testimony of small kids at face value," Richards, Heritage Foundation's senior research fellow in religious liberty and civil society, said. "Social transition is just the first step in catering to a child's delusion about his or her body, rather than helping him or her to get used to his body."
Some studies, like a 2018 study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and another 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, have suggested that large percentages of children with a history of gender dysphoria have a mental health or neurodevelopmental condition.
While there remains more to discover about the potential link between gender dysphoria and other mental health issues, Richards believes parents and therapists should focus on treating other psychological conditions that may be present in children suffering from gender dysphoria instead of encouraging them to transition.
He advised parents with children who have gender dysphoria to take a "watchful waiting" approach.
"You let the child explore these things, but you absolutely don't do anything to his mind or his body or his social surrounding that would cement this misperception about his sex body permanently," he said. "You want to do what you can to help the child going through puberty and through development, but nothing fast-tracks that for transition."