In a time when trans and gender nonconforming children are being targeted by the right and treated as a wedge issue to push people to the ballot box, what’s lost in the rhetorical warfare is that these are real children who are being used to score political points. Their personhood is pushed aside as they’re objectified, either as a source of scorn or a concern-trolling tool. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating at turns. It’s also why Generation Drag feels both like a balm and a spark of hope — even as it draws the ire of conservatives. In the series, it’s not the glitz and the glamor that takes center stage, but the humanity of children who’ve found an art form that allows them to explore and discover their truest, bravest, and most beautiful selves — and for that alone it’s must-watch viewing.
The series focuses on five baby drag queens Jameson (“Ophelia Peaches”), Noah (“Poptart”), Vinny (“Vinessa Shimmer”), Bailey (“Nemo”), and Nabela (“DunkaShay Monroe”) as they each prepare for the event of their year: a drag ball even for teens and tweens called Dragutante held in Denver, Colo. It’s their chance to not only show up and show out in their carefully curated lewks, but to be together, sometimes for the first time, with other young drag queens, and find their very own community. It’s heartwarming to see their anticipation as it grows, even as their anxiety about either pulling off their performance or simply being in a social situation climbs. What stands out is that, aside from the sequins, feathers, and (eyeball-covered) pink platform heels, is just how typically adolescent the drama is. From the human drama perspective, this could just as easily have been an episode of Cheer or Dance Moms, because these kids are, above all else, kids — just with an incredible sense of style. They sparkle with personality and a passion for drag that’s infectious.
Along for the ride are their immediate families, all of whom support their children fully now, although some took longer to get there. In one particularly compelling and heartbreaking sequence, Noah, a 16-year-old trans girl, asks her self-identified “very traditional Christian” parents to take down photos of her pre-transition self. For her, they’re a painful reminder of a time before she was fully able to be herself; for her mother Robin, the memories attached are too dear to let go of. It’s a profoundly raw, unguarded moment that adds real emotional weight to the series.
On the flip side is a touching scene of 12-year-old Vinny shoe shopping with his father Mike, who’s taken his son to the local goth shop in search of platform heels. Dad’s sincere efforts to connect with his son, even when he’s out of his depth (Vinny, exasperated, has to explain that Demonia heels are not for school, with a roll of his eyes) paint a portrait of what it looks like to love a child even when they fall outside of their initial expectations. It’s beautiful.
Generation Drag is a necessary and timely series that doesn’t just seek to engender empathy in the audience for its subjects but is kind to their loved ones as well, be they enthusiastically supportive or working hard to get there. That’s a lot to ask of a docuseries, but it mostly succeeds in reaching those lofty goals, which makes it a joyful — if occasionally bittersweet — journey well worth taking
All six episodes of Generation Drag premiere on Wednesday, June 1st on discovery+. Watch an exclusive clip below.