After three years of pandemic Hiatus, RuPaul’s DragCon UK, one of the biggest drag conferences in the world, returned to London this past weekend. The three-day event, which drew approximately 150 drag artists and thousands of fans of all ages from around the world, took place while the art form has been embroiled in controversy in the United States.

While drag has achieved widespread popularity in the US, due in large part to the hit «RuPaul’s Drag Race» franchise, critics have argued that children should not be exposed to it, and US lawmakers The US has proposed bills to try to keep kids out.

But many who attended RuPaul’s DragCon UK, held at the London Exhibition Centre, argued that drag, as a whole, generally creates a safe space where children can enjoy over-the-top performances and, in some cases, enjoy the freedom to be themselves.

RuPauls DragCon UK Opening in London
RuPaul, center, joins drag queens during the opening ceremony of RuPaul’s DragCon UK in London on January 6, 2023. Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Diggory Alberts, an 11-year-old UK native, said he lives and breathes «RuPaul’s Drag Race» and prides himself on honing his dance skills so he can stand out as his drag persona, Ruby Rose.

During the second day of the conference, as drag icon RuPaul DJed, Diggory showed off his best dance moves on stage, including deadly drops and cartwheels, to hundreds of cheering audiences. He said the experience was «unbelievable,» especially since there were «a bunch of other little kids who are out here living their life and enjoying it.»

Diggory, who attended the conference with his 25-year-old sister, said he has a hard time accepting the idea that adults, and particularly lawmakers, would want to keep children away from drag.

“You can be whoever you want to be,” he said, after criticizing lawmakers who try to prevent minors from attending drag events.

Lady Camden, a drag performer and finalist on season 14 of «RuPaul’s Drag Race,» said she had no means of expression when she was younger and would have loved access to something like a DragCon event (there have also been DragCons in New York and Los Angeles).

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Lady Camden struts down the pink carpet at RuPaul’s DragCon UK 2023.ellie rudy

“I wish it had allowed me to be more cheerful and feminine as a child,” she said. «She wishes she could go back in time and let me play with Barbies and wear pink, talk how I want to talk, love who I want to love.»

Many parents brought their children to DragCon UK not only because they are huge fans of the franchise, but also to expose their children to a diversity of art and people from the very beginning.

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Maxine, 5, poses with her mother, Trish, at RuPaul’s DragCon UK 2023 in London.
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“I want her to be able to accept people from all walks of life and think open-mindedly and really accept all diversities,” said Trish, a London resident who brought her 5-year-old daughter, Maxine.

Danielle Gostling, who lives in Kent, England, brought her 6-year-old daughter Dorothy to the conference. She said there is «nothing overtly graphic at all» about the art form.

“It’s about fun, expression, love and equality, and that’s very important for kids to know,” she said.

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Danielle Gostling and her daughter, Dorothy, attend RuPaul’s DragCon UK 2023 in London.ellie rudy

In recent months there have been at least six bills introduced by US state legislators seeking to restrict where and for whom dragging can take place. These measures are especially aimed at preventing minors from attending drag shows.

“That’s wrong,” Dorothy Gostling said of the proposed bills. «You can’t stop dragging!»

Drag performer Gemini walks the main stage at the Kids’ Fashion Show during RuPaul’s DragCon UK in London on January 8, 2023.ellie rudy

Gemini, an 18-year-old drag performer based in Surrey, England, who has been practicing the art form since she was 12, said drag is «empowering.» The teenager, who took part in the DragCon UK children’s fashion show on Sunday wearing a pink velor tracksuit, credited her drag with helping her overcome emotional difficulties and boosting her self-confidence.

“As a gay kid in school, you’re very often bullied, but for me, doing drag and stuff helped me get over that and made me think, ‘I can be myself, and I can strut around and be whoever I want. ‘» she said.

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Drag artist Kitty Scott Claus at RuPaul’s DragCon UK in London on January 6, 2023. ellie rudy

Kitty Scott Claus, a contestant on the third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK,” succinctly summed up the sentiment that seemed to run through the conference.

“Drag is for everyone, and it should be enjoyed by everyone,” he said. «If you enjoy drag, it shouldn’t matter how old you are.»