It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when our national obsession with drag queens began. Sometime after they started appearing in libraries for children's story hours but before Target began selling "tuck-friendly" bathing suits would be my guess.
Regardless, it seems impossible to avoid them, whether in advertising, the news media and now, apparently, sports.
In mid-May, the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team invited an activist LGBTQ+ drag troupe called the "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence," whose members are known for dressing in drag resembling the black-and-white habits of Catholic nuns, to appear at the team's annual Pride event next month.
The group's members, it's worth noting, use various sexual and blasphemous stage names that really don't bear repeating. They annually host a "Foxy Mary and Hunky Jesus" contest on Easter Sunday — the holiest day of the year for Christians.
According to Minnesota Bishop Robert Barron, who previously served as an auxiliary bishop in L.A., this year's performance included one performer using the cross in a pole-dancing routine.
And as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio notes, the group's motto, "go and sin some more," is a perversion of Jesus' command to "go, and sin no more."
Group members say they do more than just mock the Catholic Church; they raise money for charitable causes and seek to bring visibility to communities historically ignored, including those with HIV and AIDS.
OK. But is charity inspired by hate truly benevolent?
Would a group of men mockingly dressed as Muslim clerics, pole dancing around images of Muhammad while feeding the homeless, be considered a charitable group?
A public outcry from leaders of the Catholic Church prompted the Dodgers to rescind their plans to honor the group with a "Community Hero Award," as initially announced.
But the Dodgers caved to progressive voices and changed their mind again, apologizing to the organization and re-inviting members to "take their place on the field at our 10th annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night."
Over the last several years, drag performers have taken on an outsized role in our cultural imagination.
For progressives, they are purveyors of high art, using their "marginalized status" to convey complex social commentary, push the boundaries of sexuality and gender roles and, to borrow a phrase, crush the patriarchy.
To conservatives, their performances often stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes and are misogynistic and demeaning.
I suspect that if some drag performers had not started seeking younger audiences and thereby attracting vocal proponents and detractors, they probably would not have become the cultural flashpoint that makes them a target of the right and poster child for the left.
But the controversy around the Dodgers event isn't really about drag or the team's decision to honor the Sisters group. It's not even about the potential for children to be among the audience.
Instead, the consternation is very specifically about who the drag performers are mocking: Catholics in general and nuns in particular.
The so-called inclusiveness of honoring such a group during a month of national LGBTQ+ adulation is ultimately a ruse for celebrating anti-Catholic bigotry.
Indeed, despite our era of inclusivity, anti-Catholic invective is still often acceptable in the public sphere, especially when the source is another supposedly marginalized group.
Organizations like the "Sisters" argue that their mockery of the church and its faithful are helping to expose "the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit" and that the group's use of nuns' habits are an homage to the real women who share their devotion to service.
Herein lies the most striking irony of all.
Catholic sisters are among the most selfless, peaceful, benevolent servants of the Catholic Church.
Their missions are real and in many cases raw. For example, the Missionaries of Charity live in poverty with the communities they serve. The Little Sisters of the Poor, many of whom are elderly, care for their forgotten and destitute contemporaries. The Sisters of Life surrender all of their earthly possessions in service to their belief in the dignity of every human person.
Indeed, many sisters have cared for members of the LGTBQ+ community, including decades ago, when it was difficult to do so.
Real sisters seldom seek attention or recognition because their true mission is service to others, not their own egos.
According to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence's website, the group has accepted the Dodgers apology and plans to attend the team Pride Night next month.
If the members were truly trying to emulate the women they purport to, they would gracefully decline.
And if the Dodgers truly cared about inclusion, they would think twice before honoring a group that openly mocks a huge part of their fan base.
Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.