Who better to lead school story time than a drag king or queen?
From the outfits they wear, to the over-the-top expressions involved in their act, they’re professional performers who use their art form to bring stories to life and engage and captivate in a way that standard storytelling can’t – and with a little bit of a queer twist thrown in on top.
But there’s more to Drag Queen Story Time than brilliant performances. There’s a serious reason why we want kids to see drag queens in their everyday lives.
In this instance, a drag performer with the stage name of ‘Flowjob’, introduced as ‘Flo’ to the children, performed a one off story time session as part of LGBTQ+ History Month. This event was attended by teachers, the press and even a local MP.
Dressed in a gown, covering her head to toe, she read a couple of short stories. However, despite the fact that no one has raised any concerns regarding the content of the session itself, after the event, those opposed to drag queens being in schools at all made it their mission to ‘prove’ that this performer was inappropriate to be around children.
People have gone out of their way to stalk the queen’s social media posts, using their findings to argue that they are ‘inappropriate for children’.
Anyone who has seen the images, which have now made their way into the national press, would agree that they aren’t particularly ‘child-friendly’. But those images didn’t represent the actual performance, and bear no relation to what occurred in the classroom.
Not that it seems to matter.
In fact, it does not appear to matter who the specific performer even was. The narrative being pushed is that all LGBTQ+ people are inappropriate for children.
LGBTQ+ people are a fact of life in 21st century Britain. From same-sex families, to gender non-binary celebrities, we exist, and we aren’t going anywhere.
However, despite the tireless work of organisations like Stonewall, School’s OUT and others throughout the years, this gradual acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals and identities hasn’t always made its way into our educational settings.
The legacy of Section 28 – the amendment, brought in by Thatcher’s government, that banned ‘promoting homosexuality’ in schools – still looms over generations of people, many of whom are denied the opportunity to discuss matters around sex, gender and sexuality in a safe space without judgement as children.
The ongoing impact of this was reflected in the findings of Stonewall’s 2017 School’s Report, which identified that almost half of LGBTQ+ pupils hear homophobic slurs ‘frequently’ or ‘often’ at school.
Despite attempts to develop a culture that opposes homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying in all its forms, schools often leave teachers unprepared to deal with specific issues that arise in relation to such bullying – whether through a lack of training, or simply the resources to tackle it head on.
The effects of this on LGBTQ+ students is devastating, and faced with statistics that show that nearly half of LGBTQ+ pupils are bullied at school, it is impossible to conclude that inaction is the right response.
When you spend your life unable to see where you belong in society, and are regularly informed that your mere existence is ‘wrong’ or an ‘
Drag Queen Story Time provides this representation, in an age-appropriate, easily accessible and, frankly, entertaining way.
Making use of literature by LGBTQ+ authors and artists, and specifically designed to open discussion around LGBTQ+ themes, DQST opens the door to conversations that many parents and teachers want to have but don’t know where to begin.
There has been much debate as to whether a drag act is appropriate as children’s entertainment – the implication being that drag is, somehow, restricted to being for adult consumption only.
This is just false. Drag performers, like any artist, are able to tailor their performances to the specific audiences that they work with.
They date all the way back to Shakespearean times, not to mention pantomimes – something families happily take their children to – which feature dames in all their crude glory.
A show that is held in a primary school is obviously not going to include the same content as a Friday night performance down Canal Street.
However, there are those who cannot seem to make this distinction.
With accusations of ‘child grooming’, ‘paedophilia’ and ‘lewd, sexualised content’, being made with no basis beyond ingrained prejudice shielded behind vague reference to ‘safeguarding’, Drag Queen Story Time is subjected to a level of queerphobia that hasn’t been seen since the 80s.
While I do not doubt that some people may have legitimate concerns, these worries are often manipulated by groups seeking to sow division and distrust.
We’ve seen a coordinated attempt to smear and shame an amazing performer who just wanted to make the world a little bit of a better place, and whose only crime is being a gay man.
Flo has found themselves at the centre of a campaign of queerphobia that all LGBTQ+ people are all too familiar with. Their personal life dissected and examined by people who want to disguise their own prejudices as ‘concerns about safeguarding children’.
I would suggest that this level of scrutiny would never be applied to any other speaker invited to a school for an event, and that safeguarding measures should be left to the professionals whose job it is to ensure that those measures are followed.
These attacks were all too common in the 1980s and should have no place in a tolerant 21st century Britain.
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