The Rainbow Room, a Doylestown club for LGBTQ+ youth from 14 to 21 years old, is in the headlines after state Sen. Doug Mastriano issued a sponsoring memo for legislation to stop drag queen shows on public property or where minors can see them.
The Rainbow Room recently held a Queer Prom that included a drag queen. Gift bags for prom attendees, some reportedly as young as 13, included lubricant, condoms, and dental dams.
Mastriano, the 2022 GOP nominee for governor, said, “In Pennsylvania, there has been an alarming uptick in drag performances that appeal to children. In April 2022, parents at a school district in Lancaster were shocked to learn about afterschool X-rated drag shows occurring on school property. In October 2022, a sexually charged drag show for audience members as young as 13 was performed at the Rainbow Room in Bucks County.
“My legislation will classify drag shows as an ‘adult-oriented business’ under Title 68. As an adult-oriented business, commonsense limits would have to be considered that protect minors.
“It is disheartening that legislation like this is needed. Parents have a right to know their children are not being exposed to sexually charged content in a public forum. Drag shows that appeal to minors on school property, libraries, and other public places should not be accepted in any functioning society,” Mastriano said.
Many Delaware Valley libraries have sponsored drag queen story hours. Although a drag-related festival sparked controversy in West Chester last year, that was largely due to an incorrect article in an area newspaper.
Marlene Pray, the Rainbow Room director, did not respond to a request for comment. Photos shared with Delaware Valley Journal show very young teens there playing with sex toys and an invitation to a pizza party decorated with drawings of female genitalia. Another invitation offered instruction on how to crochet a hat shaped like a uterus.
Bucks County parent Jamie Walker said, “It’s deeply disturbing that we live in a county where people are celebrating 13 to 21-year-olds at a party where lube and dental dams were handed out.”
“Nobody knows the Rainbow Room’s process for vetting their staff and volunteers,” she added. “Why is our state senator endorsing this? The LGBTQ community should be upset they are being used this way.”
Mastriano locked horns with Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks), who secured $630,000 in state funding for the Rainbow Room last fall and is also a sponsor of the Queer Prom.
Santarsiero, who also chairs the Bucks County Democratic Committee, defended the Rainbow Room and the Queer Prom.
“While I disagree with (Mastriano’s) proposal as a matter of policy, I take particular exception to his distorted characterization of the Rainbow Room’s Queer Prom, a dance specifically arranged for LGBTQ+ youth in Bucks County.
“The Rainbow Room, which Planned Parenthood established over 20 years ago to be a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth to come together and build self-esteem, first held the prom in February 2020.
“I was at that event, both as an elected official sponsoring it and as a parent (our younger son had come out as gay about eight months before and was excited to attend the prom with his friends). Due to the pandemic, the Rainbow Room had to cancel the prom in 2021 but was able to hold it again this past fall. While family weekend at our younger son’s college prevented me from attending that prom, I once again agreed to sponsor the dance. Its organizers sent me a video of it later,” said Santarsiero.
“What I observed in person in 2020 – and again by watching the video of the 2022 prom – was a large group of teenagers having fun. What struck me, in fact, was that they could have been kids – gay or straight – at any school in the country. For the most part, they danced with the same awkwardness as any other teenager – I say that endearingly as someone who, even in late middle age, is still awkward on the dance floor. What was apparent was that each one of them was happy. They were happy to be with their friends and happy to be in a loving environment where it was OK to be themselves.
“It is an important point. Many of these students do not feel accepted by their peers,” he said.
Santarsiero added, “As for it being sexually charged, I will not attempt to get into the gentleman’s mind to decipher what exactly he meant by that phrase, although I note that it is one that is most often used by those, who, solely on their own authority, take on the mantel of arbiter of morality in ironic disregard of the biblical admonition against judging.”
The Bucks County Republican Committee also weighed in on Facebook.
“Once again Senator/Chairman Santarsiero has his jobs confused. The Democrat County Committee chair used his official position as a state senator to sponsor an event targeted at underage children that featured a drag queen performance and sexually explicit items that were handed out in ‘swag bags,’
“In addition to sponsoring the event the ‘Queer Prom,’ Bucks County’s State Senator/Democrat Party Chair has also obtained a $630,000 grant, our tax dollars, to continue to sexualize children, some as young as 14. This is not an acceptable use of tax dollars and certainly does not align with the values of this county,” the GOP said.