OPINION: Drag Queen Story Time is an age-old tale of good versus evil

by Damian Kerlin | Unaffiliated
Wednesday, 7 September 2022 09:26 GMT

Participants dressed in drag dance along with children during the "Drag Queen Story Hour" event, which according to organizers involves participants reading stories to children for an hour, in downtown Monterrey, Mexico June 9, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Drag queens reading to children doesn’t teach them to challenge their gender, it simply encourages them to accept that some people do

Damian Kerlin is an LGBTQ+ and culture journalist, same-sex parent advocate and blogger based in Wales.

If parents want to take their children to Drag Queen Story Time, that is their decision.

Drag has long had a presence in mainstream UK pop culture, from Dame Edna to Lily Savage. It is not just about fabulous queens competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race; there is the Panto Dame and even Mr Tumble performs in drag on the BBC’s children’s channel. So, how have we reached a place where a man in a dress is automatically deemed to be a threat to children?

Drag Queen Story Hour, in which drag queens read stories to children, has recently been hauled into the midst of a culture war currently engulfing the UK.

This summer, groups including gender critics and ‘devout’ Christians have been holding up signs saying, “Welcome groomers” and “Nonce upon a time” outside libraries from Reading to Bristol when Drag Queen Story Hour events were due to take place. They questioned parents about why they were taking their children to see a “paedophile”.

The idea that a drag queen reading the Gruffalo, a popular children’s book, to a library full of children could somehow be sexual is frankly ridiculous. We are talking about an imaginary creature here.

Calling drag artists “groomers” is the latest in an unoriginal strategy to name-call and character assassinate the opposition.

It is exactly that frivolity that is so dangerous to the very real and devastating experience of sexual abuse. To use these words in this way voids them of their real meaning and desensitises the hurt and lasting trauma of those affected.

It doesn’t shock me that these groups believe they have the right to strip away the decisions of others for what they believe is ‘best’. They boast free speech, until you exercise your right to free speech and disagree with them. Then they attack and belittle in the hope that you will give in and side with them.

What a lovely bunch of bigots.

Growing up as a gay man, throughout my entire educational experience, I didn’t encounter a single book, author or lesson that acknowledged homosexuality.

I’ve never been in a classroom in which transgender issues were discussed, and I think that’s damaging to young people. With the normalisation of homosexuality, a lot of the right-wing leaning groups have essentially been looking for a new demographic to demonise and blame for what they see as the social ills of today’s society.

It’s so easy to dress homophobia and transphobia up as concern for children.

We are not born to hate, we are taught to; and the only way in overcoming hatred is by seeing the world in its many colours.

Drag Queen Story Hour doesn’t teach children to challenge their gender, it simply teaches them to accept that some people do. It is a platform for sharing the beauty of acceptance.

The real problem lies not in exposing children to the reality of diverse sexualities and gender identities, those who do not fit the typical definitions of masculinity or femininity, but rather not providing gender-nonconforming kids with other templates as they begin to sort out their feelings about who they authentically are.

I don’t know if my children are straight, gay, trans, non-binary or everything and anything in between, but I want them to experience and meet others who are, so they have the confidence to make informed decisions on their identity as they grow.

Ultimately, it teaches my kids to accept the differences in this world. That normal is simply just a social construct and that anyone can be whoever they want to be.

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.