Not everything needs to be a debate.
A local library hosts a free, inclusive reading session for children. It’s completely optional to attend, co-organised by two charities, and hosted by an experienced, DBS-checked entertainer, who just so happens to be a drag queen. Amid accusations of ‘creepiness’ and, at worst, ‘indoctrination’, I ask: how did it get to this?
At the end of this week, the public library from my home island of Guernsey, the Guille-Allez Library, will be hosting its first-ever “Drag Queen Story Time”. It’s a series of two reading sessions, co-organised by the library itself, Drag Queen Story Time, a UK-based nonprofit, and Liberate, Guernsey’s only LGBT+ support charity. Free to attend, tickets for the two reading sessions sold out within just 24 hours of launch.
The performer, Aida H Dee, is on the autistic spectrum themselves, and co-founded the charity with the intention of providing safe, inclusive spaces for children to be themselves, get creative, learn more, and develop more understanding about the community around them… and yes, with the LGBT+ community particularly in mind. The performers are fully police DBS checked and read age-appropriate materials like Michael Rosen’s classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
All sounds pretty tame, right?
Well, the library’s daring decision to host two optional literary sessions has become the centre of an island-wide debate, one that’s been discussed not just on Twitter and Facebook, but also propelled into coverage in local newspapers and TV news.
I could talk about how one of Guernsey’s senior politicians kicked it all off by shaming the entertainer for… drinking outside of their charity work, and taking the charity’s mission out of context, essentially making it seem as if the performer was going to be doing shots, huffing poppers and showing children Tom of Finland drawings. I could talk about how said politician was also quoted yesterday saying:
“Language such as unabashedly queer… [is] a discussion that needs to be had around the kitchen table before it’s a public event.”
A quote that fills me with so much shame that I can’t even begin to break it down without going on a separate tangent. (Although, just for you, Barry: ‘not making it public’ was the very kind of language I heard growing up that discouraged me from coming out in Guernsey. The sort of language that made me anxious at school and at the people around me. That type of language, and, moreover, attitude, is pretty much the entire reason I moved away from the island in the first place.)
I could also talk about how these events are, of course, completely free and not obligatory to attend… a decision to be made by kids and their parents, unrelated to any school or curricular obligations.
But I don’t even have the energy to argue those points or those people any more. I’m just going to proffer the following question:
Why does it even need to be a debate?
At a time when homophobic hate crime is on the rise (doubling since 2014 in the UK), I’m disappointed that our local media have leapt at the excuse to turn LGBT+ people back into a debate. I’m disappointed that Liberate, the island’s only LGBT+ charity, are continually having to defend themselves and justify their actions. I’m sickened by local news giving airtime to harmful language like the quote above, and republishing other select quotes like ‘creepy’ and ‘wrong’, letting it spiral into an unnecessarily big issue and unintentionally compounding the “us vs them” mindset. You might say that this is only a debate about the library, but take a closer look at social media comments and it quickly becomes apparent this is about something much bigger.
So, you might not agree with the concept of “drag queens reading children’s books to children”, and in the same breath, that must mean you’ve probably never liked panto, Dame Edna or Lily Savage either. Performance is just that… performance. There’s no gay agenda or “indoctrination” here because we’re all too bloody busy trying to prove to people like our Deputy friend over there that we exist in the first place.
If you’re not keen on the idea, don’t get a ticket. No one is forcing your kids to see a drag queen (although, if you’re worried about your kids experiencing something "other" or "alternative" like this, you’d better make sure they never go on the internet, play video games, watch TV or leave the house). If you’re part of the local media, stop creating outrage for the sake of outrage — especially when it already targets some of the island’s most vulnerable people. It’s two optional events at a local library, not a new school curriculum.
LGBT+ people exist. And I’m tired of people using stories like this as a chance to scapegoat their homophobia.
It doesn’t need to be a debate.