The Daily Wire is reporting this week that an 11-year-old boy with autism was seen performing in drag at a 21-and-over Brooklyn, New York gay bar earlier this month.
Desmond Napoles--reportedly dressed for the occasion as Gwen Stefani in a blonde wig, full drag makeup, and a crop top--is said to have danced and sung in a “sexual manner” at the notorious 3 Dollar Bill club on the evening of December 1. Napoles is well-known for his LGBTQ activism and Instagram account, which presently has 108,000 followers.
During the child’s Brooklyn performance of Stefani’s “Like a Girl”, adult men in the audience cheered and gave dollar bills to the boy.
While the Wire claims to have reviewed and confirmed footage and photos of the incident, they did not link to them.
"Only in New York... a nightclub that makes you go WHOA!!!," reads the promotion. "FEATURING: Upcoming Legend from Television and the Runway: DESMOND IS AMAZING!!! PERFORMING LIVE! ... This stage, this dance floor, this house... is ours as long as we protect it."
The ad also stated that 3 Dollar Bill is "queer owned & operated and we foster a safe space from love. We respect all human persons as long as those human persons are also respectful to the ones around them."
But not everyone in attendance was comfortable with the 11-year-old boy’s drag performance.
"I left after seeing a child dance on stage for money at nighttime. This was on Saturday night and I have been feeling disturbed ever since," a one-star Yelp review of 3 Dollar Bill read on December 3.
Also noteworthy is 3 Dollar Bill’s alleged “no cellphone” policy, which multiple Yelp reviewers have also criticized.
"The club has a weird no cell phone policy, but we we [sic] wanted to have a good night, so we went along with it. The club put our phones in these locked sleeves…”, wrote one reviewer.
According to another, "They also make you put your phone into a locked magnet pouch at the door, so it can't be used while there. You can slip it into your pocket but can't get in the pouch."
Desmond Napoles has been featured regularly in recent months, both in print and on TV, and described by the mainstream media as an inspiration and poster child for the transgender movement.
The boy, who identifies as “gender fluid”, was the subject of a Daily Beast article published in February titled "RuPaul Loves 'Drag Kid' Desmond. You Will Too. Fiercely." Then in June, the TODAY Showfeatured an interview with Desmond, the caption reading "Meet the 10-year-old 'drag kid' taking over social media with inspiring message."
Not everyone is so sure about Desmond’s rise to fame, however.
Writer Rod Dreher, who blogs at the American Conservative, also published an article this week critical of the young boy’s drag routine. Dreher linked to another of Desmond’s nighttime drag performances, this time at a gay bar in San Francisco.
After describing the footage (which apparently shows Desmond in the same outfit and makeup, and performing the same song, as he did at 3 Dollar Bill earlier this month), Dreher went on to ask, “Does that stage mom, Wendy (sometimes Wendylou) Napoles, take her 11-year-old son to gay bars to perform for men all the time now? Where is Child Protective Services?”
Dreher also pointed to past social media posts from Wendy Napoles, where she describes Desmond’s autism in her defense of his dressing in drag. Dreher expressed concern over a boy with special needs being sexualized, remarking that “he apparently has nobody in his life who will protect him.”