Biden admin funding drag queen story hour performer's latest book on 'cruising gay men and femme witches'

Posted 17 days ago


The Biden administration is funding a scholarly book on queer performers and digital privacy written by a drag queen who wrote several drag-themed children's books.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in January announced a $60,000 grant for a book about how drag performers and trans/queer subjects "playfully dazzle both the human senses and computational sensors," drawing on "case studies including drag queens, trans taxi drivers, cruising gay men and femme witches."

The author of the book, Harris Kornstein, performs in drag as Lil Miss Hot Mess, a fixture at controversial drag queen story hours who became a lightning rod for Republican politicians and parental rights organizations who say the events expose children to sexually suggestive content.

Lil Miss Hot Mess is also listed as the author of children's books "The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish" and "If You're a Drag Queen and You Know It," two drag-themed revisions of popular kid's rhymes.

The NEH research program description says the book will explore "digital enchantment," which the author describes as "a framework that explores how diverse queer and trans users subvert and expand traditional approaches of privacy by creatively exploiting the features of mainstream technologies and creating their own platforms."

The book aims to contradict assumptions that view online privacy as primarily concealing information, according to the project description, while drag offers a means of flooding algorithms with alter ego images that confuse digital surveillance systems.

"Drawing on San Francisco case studies including drag queens, trans taxi drivers, cruising gay men and femme witches, I look to LGBTQ+ histories that complicate these assumptions," Kornstein's project description states. "Digital enchantment describes the hyper-visible glamour, mischievousness and mystical intuition that many queer/trans subjects employ to playfully dazzle both the human senses and computational sensors."

The project appears to bear some similarities to Kornstein's 2019 essay on drag and digital countersurveillance. In that piece, Kornstein explores drag as a source of "practical techniques for managing one’s identity and avoiding, thwarting or otherwise mitigating the harms sustained by data-driven forms of surveillance."... (Read more)