Drag Queen at Career Day Upsets Some Colorado Parents

We never had Career Day when I was in school. No one's parents came in to talk about what they did for a living. Our teachers figured we'd just sort it all out after we were well out of their hair.

I wanted to be a detective. And a firefighter. And a lumberjack. But I never had any opportunities to meet anyone who did that for a living. Not that it would have mattered. I was 10 years old, and the odds of me doing anything like that were remote at best, so my parents let me have my dreams.

When my oldest daughter was six, she wanted to be a veterinarian and also we were going to run a "fix-it shop" in a big barn. The upstairs would be for animals and I would fix things downstairs. My two younger kids announced they were going to own a McDonald's and a Burger King, and they were going to let my wife and me live upstairs at one of the shops. And we could have as many French fries as we wanted.

Of course, no one should take these childhood fantasies seriously. When a little girl wants to be a fairy princess, no one enrolls her in fairy princess school or sends her to Wand Camp. When a kid wants to be an astronaut, don't enroll them in physics tutoring. I knew a girl who wanted to be a veterinarian ballerina princess, and her parents just smiled and nodded.

No one except the Type A helicopter parent will take this seriously and sign their kid up for all kinds of camps and classes. Except nothing burns a kid out on their dreams faster than a parent pushing, pushing, pushing them into it. Give them a chance to learn about the world first because their dreams will undoubtedly change and pushing will only make them hate it.

But if your kid still wants to be an astronaut when they're 12, send them to space camp. If they want to be a professional athlete, sign them up for the appropriate little league. And if your little girl still wants to be a fairy princess at age 12, you need to have a frank discussion with her.

So if your kid hears about some new kind of career or learns about a job they never knew existed, it's no big deal. Career Day isn't going to send your 8-year-old careening off into a career as a circus clown when they were very clearly going to be a neurosurgeon.

But some Colorado parents seem to think so. They lost their minds when a drag queen named Ms. Jessica spoke at the Rocky Top Middle School career day last week. (That's not Ms. Jessica in the photo; those are my friends Lady Winifred and Didi Panache of the Screw You Revue.)

One parent, Jen Payer, told Denver's FOX 31 news, "I was pretty appalled. I was pretty surprised. It was a shock because no one was notified."

Ms. Jessica is a performer at the Denver Hamburger Mary's, a hamburger restaurant chain that's known for their weekend drag performances. She was one of more than 100 other career professionals who talked about how their job relates to literacy, which was the theme of the day.

But while she's a performer, she did not talk about her work, beyond describing herself as an entertainer who likes to sing.

"This person is an adult entertainer and is talking to 12-year-old students about something that's adult (in) nature," said Heather Rogers, another overreacting parent who wasn't actually there to know what Jessica discussed.

What she actually talked about was the importance of being kind to people. According to a letter from Rocky Top principal, Chelsea Behanna, "Jessica read a chapter from 'Horrible Harry' and she used the text to illustrate the damage bullies can do, the need to always put kindness and acceptance at the forefront, and the shortsightedness of judging a book by its cover."

You know, adult topics that some parents don't want to expose their children to.

Jessica wanted to show kids that it's okay to be different, and that it's important to be kind to everyone; it certainly had an impact on a lot of the youngsters.

She said one kid told her he was gay. "I get bullied every week and I don’t know what to do and just talking to you helped me realize that I can still be me and still be happy."

Someone else told her, "I was having a really horrible week and you made my day."

While Principal Behanna said she had received some pushback from a "handful of people," she said she would notify parents in advance about who would be at next year's career day.

"Should you feel like any of the sessions are not appropriate for your child, you’ll be welcome to notify us and we’ll make alternate arrangements for your child during that time."

In other words, we'll allow people like Jessica back, and if you don't like it, your kid can spend the day in the library.

After all, if a parent doesn't want their kid to be exposed to a different lifestyle than one they accept, that's their right. What is not their right is making sure everyone else's kids aren't exposed.

But if you're worried that your kid is going to pick an unusual career because of an unusual Career Day guest, don't let them watch Pretty Woman. You don't want your kid to grow up to be a cut-throat corporate shark.

The 3rd edition of Branding Yourself is now available on Amazon.com and in your local Barnes & Noble bookstore.