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Young drag performer on Boise Pride backlash: 'It's infuriating to the 10th degree'

Aslynn Walker, a youth drag performer
Phil Walker
Fifteen-year-old Aslynn Walker has been dressing in drag since she was a pre-teen. She was one of several performers who had to cancel their sets after far-right activists demanded the cancelation of a youth drag show at Boise Pride Festival earlier this month.

Fifteen-year-old Aslynn Walker, who uses she/they pronouns, had been developing and practicing her routine for Boise Pride’s Drag Kids event since late spring.

She had spent months drafting her own choreography – going so far as to get the stage dimensions to be as precise as possible.

Her chosen song, “MORE” by the K-pop group K/DA, is only partly in English.

“I had to learn how to lip sync in Korean for my performance at Pride,” Aslynn said.

But all of her work, all of the minute details dreamed up for her hair, makeup and costume – all of it began to fade just a few days before she was supposed to take the stage.

A press release creates a firestorm

“We’re going to have kids up on stage with exotic dancers and performers and drag queens. This is totally unacceptable,” said Dorothy Moon, the newly-elected chair of the Idaho Republican Party, speaking to Steve Bannon, the embattled former Trump strategist.

Just a quick fact-check: no, exotic dancers were not going to be on stage, according to organizers.

Despite sharing no evidence that the Drag Kids event would “sexualize” children, Moon sent multiple press releases in the days leading up to Boise Pride.

Phil Walker, Aslynn’s father, said he was confused when he first heard about the allegations from Moon and others.

“Well, that’s not true,” said Phil. “What evidence does she have to support that?”

Accusations that drag queens were somehow “grooming” his children was outlandish to him.

Aslynn Walker in drag
Phil Walker
Aslynn Walker dressed in drag in an undated photo.

“They are sweet, amazing individuals and I would trust them a million times more than a Catholic priest with my kids,” he said.

Pride officials pre-approved performers’ songs to ensure they were appropriate for them and the audience.

“There was due diligence being done by the community and I don’t think people understand that,” said Britt Walker, Aslynn’s mother.

A second child of theirs, 11-year-old El, was also supposed to perform, but didn't want to be interviewed for this story.

While she declined to share details of her costume and dance routine until she’s able to perform it, Aslynn and the rest of the Walkers said neither have any sexual aspects to them.

Youth drag shows, Phil said, are more "modest" than their adult versions. He said he has seen a performer take off an article of clothing that revealed a unitard, though Britt added that's not unlike what's worn in a "little girl's dance class."

In Moon's circulated press releases she urged corporate and local business sponsors alike to ditch the festival and instead donate the money to a local, religious homeless shelter.

"The Radical Left seeks to use this event as a beachhead to push their agenda targeting Idaho’s children," wrote Moon. "Now is the time for concerned citizens of all political affiliations living throughout Idaho to push back."

The tactic worked. As the hours ticked by, more and more sponsors, like Zions Bank and Idaho Central Credit Union, began pulling their participation.

By Friday, just three days before the event, Aslynn learned organizers had canceled it due to safety concerns.

“It’s infuriating to the tenth degree and I cannot … ugh it makes me so mad.”

"It was so rough to have that taken away."

Aslynn first became obsessed with drag four years ago when she went to a Boise Pride event offering makeup tutorials.

“I’d always loved makeup and fashion, but it was the performance side of things that I was immediately drawn to," she said.

Within six months, she joined the first of three youth drag shows she’s performed at so far, getting immense satisfaction out of them.

“The feeling that I get on stage, the happiness I feel when I hear the audience cheering for me or whenever I hear the beat drop on a song … it’s tons of different things,” Aslynn said.

It wasn’t a shock to her parents.

“We often joke that she pranced out of my womb,” Britt said, with Aslynn and Phil laughing next to her.

“Ever since I was in elementary school, I would tell kids all over school that I was a girl born in a boy’s body," Aslynn added.

Both parents said they’ve loved and accepted her from the very beginning.

“They have wanted to make this a career for the last several years and so they wanted to dedicate their time being homeschooled and being able to practice,” Britt said.

Walker family.png
Phil Walker
The Walker family

They’re former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with conservative family members who’ve had a hard time accepting Aslynn’s transition.

But several were planning to come to the event to support her before it was postponed, adding another layer of disappointment.

The family said they’re worried the fallout might lead to higher suicide rates among LGBTQ kids — who are already four times as likely to attempt suicide as their peers.

After the Idaho GOP put together a call to action, in response to several Boise Pride Festival events, many sponsors withdrew their support. Idaho Matters takes a look at the response to last weekends events and how the narrative of grooming and sexualization of children has taken center stage in politics.

They're also concerned it could force other venues to cancel future youth drag events. Venues that host adult drag shows are typically restricted to those 21 and older.

“We’re all just teenagers and young individuals who are trying so very hard to express themselves through a beautiful art form that we’ve had the luck in our lives to find,” Aslynn said.

It feels as though they’re not welcome in their home state anymore and the Walkers fear they might have to move to a more accepting place for their own well-being.

“They treat us like we’re an infection that needs to be treated,” said Britt. “We’re something that’s wrong with society.”

Despite the disappointment and community animosity, Aslynn continues to hone her performance for when Pride organizers reschedule the Drag Kids event – and for her eventual professional career.

“Honestly, sometimes the best thing you can do is realize that you can’t convince people and then make it incredibly clear that those people are not going to be able to stop you.”

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!