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Drag queen invited to middle school career day responds to parents’ outrage

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THORNTON, Colo. -- A drag queen spoke at Rocky Top Middle School’s career day event on Friday. Some parents say that shouldn’t have happened. Others are calling the drag queen’s participation a lesson in diversity.

Drag shows allow Zack Sullivan, 25, to transform into a woman named Jessica.

“I like how it’s made me a better person,” Jessica said. “It’s made me a happier person.”

Jessica has been performing in drag shows for more than five years. She usually works at Hamburger Mary’s in Denver.

For the past year and a half, drag has been a full-time job for Jessica -- a career that landed her an invitation to talk to students at Rocky Top Middle School in Thornton.

“I was very nervous because I wasn’t sure what kind of response I was going to get from kids,” she said.

Jessica was one of more than 100 volunteers representing a broad range of careers that included first responders, elected officials and even members of the clergy.

But it was her profession that received the most attention.

“I was pretty appalled,” parent Jen Payer said. “It was a shock because no one was notified.”

In a letter, the school’s principal says parents will be given a list of who will be invited to talk at future career events.

Jessica says no adult jokes were told at the school. The principal says she talked to students about the damage of bullying and the need to put kindness and acceptance at the forefront.

In the end, Jessica says students did not complain. The feedback from them made her visit to Rocky Top worth it.

“I got messages saying, ‘I am a gay boy ... I get picked on every single week,’” she said. “I got kids saying, ‘I was the best part of the day … thank you for coming in.’”

Jessica is hoping to be invited back next year and for other schools to follow Rocky Top’s lead.

The school says if any parent finds any future career day presentations inappropriate, they should notify the school and their child won’t be part of that particular session.

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