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It’s not ‘far right’ to question Drag Queen Story Hour

Parents’ legitimate safeguarding concerns are being dismissed as fascistic.

Jo Bartosch

Jo Bartosch

Topics Identity Politics UK

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Are you a Nazi sympathiser, or are you a nonce enabler? Because judging by last weekend’s furore over a performance of Drag Queen Story Hour at a London art gallery, those are your only two options.

On Saturday, Tate Britain hosted a performance from drag queen Sab Samuel. Performing under the name Aida H Dee, Samuel has been touring the UK over the past year with his Drag Queen Story Hour show. The tour has generated a great deal of resistance from parents, many of whom are concerned that it is trying to indoctrinate children into gender ideology.

In a typical show, Samuel reads his self-published books, such as My First Pride, to children. He does this while in full drag get-up, wearing fake breasts and tight-fitting costumes, which can sometimes make his male sex somewhat obvious.

Samuel has also recently attracted criticism for publicly lamenting the passing of drag performer Darren Moore. Moore was a convicted child rapist, but Samuel described him as an ‘exuberant human being, taken from the world too early’.

So there are good reasons for parents to be concerned about Drag Queen Story Hour, but the media have mainly ignored these details. Instead, most coverage of the growing backlash has focussed on the unwelcome presence of Patriotic Alternative (PA), a far-right grouping, which has been accused of leafleting ahead of last weekend’s disorder outside a migrant hotel in Merseyside.

On Saturday, broadcasters showed footage of two angry lines of protestors – the anti-drag protesters and a left-wing counter-protest, which included groups like Stand Up To Racism and was supported by the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP). But this conflict can’t be as easily summarised as caring left-wingers on the one side and fascists on the other. The truth is not so easy to cram into a tweet, headline or banner slogan.

The Tate’s decision to host Drag Queen Story Hour was first brought to light not by the far right, but by a number of gender-critical feminist groups, including Art Not Propaganda (AXP). In a petition circulated last month, which has gained nearly 4,000 signatures, AXP, Transgender Trend and the Safe Schools Alliance called on Tate Britain to stop ‘targeting kids with gender propaganda’. The petition highlighted dubious social-media posts Samuel had made, and argued that the Tate should not be ‘giving him access to children in order to promote his own writings on the subject, paid for with public money’.

However, AXP opted not to join the demonstration on Saturday, saying that it would be dangerous for families and children. In an update to the petition, it noted with frustration how ‘the row has been co-opted by trans-rights and far-right extremist groups who are planning on turning up at Tate Britain on Saturday in masks to scream abuse at each other’. Both might claim to be protecting children from the other side, but as AXP concluded, this would amount to ‘political carnage’ that would ‘terrify small kids’.

When the far-right Patriotic Alternative seized the opportunity for its own political ends, Tate Britain officials doubtless felt heroic at having gone ahead with the show in spite of such opposition. But the fact that the far right turned up does not mean that opposing such events is inherently extremist. Those who signed AXP’s Drag Queen Story Hour petition are people of all political persuasions and backgrounds.

In truth, the growth of drag events for children is an indictment of the mainstream. What possible good did Tate Britain think it was doing by hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour? And why are so many libraries and schools so keen to put on these trans-activist events for children? This has left an open, child-safeguarding-shaped hole for more extreme groups to step through.

While the protest was happening, trans-activist-in-chief Owen Jones was quick to stir the pot online. He leapt on the PA banners to describe gender-critical concerns as part of an ‘anti-trans and anti-migrant backlash’. According to Jones, both the far right and gender-critical feminists claim to be fighting for women and children’s safety, though this is just a cover for their bigotry. The ‘founding rationale’ of the Ku Klux Klan, Jones tweeted, was also largely to ‘protect women’. As he explained: ‘The notorious 1915 film The Birth of a Nation popularised this narrative, portraying black men as sexually threatening towards white women.’

Sadly, such leaps of logic, where women’s rights are presented as ‘far right’, are not confined to prats pontificating on Twitter. Retiring Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is one of many politicians to have smeared her gender-critical opponents in this way, alleging that they ‘cloak themselves in women’s rights to make [their transphobia] acceptable’. What’s more, ‘just as they’re transphobic’, she told journalist Lewis Goodall last month, ‘you’ll also find that they’re deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well’.

Back in reality, it is notable that some of the bravest and most outspoken opponents of transgender ideology are neither straight, nor white. Take Allison Bailey, the black lesbian barrister who is taking on Stonewall in the courts. Or Keira Bell, a mixed-race bisexual woman who helped to bring the world’s attention to the scandal at the Tavistock clinic, after she decided to detransition. Conspicuously pale pillocks like Sturgeon and Jones erase the contribution of such women of colour from the gender-critical movement. For trans ideologues, it is far more politically convenient to cast gender-critical feminists as trad wives, dutifully ironing our husbands’ ‘Blood and Soil’ t-shirts, while asking Mumsnet for advice on how to bring a shine to a skinhead. Ultimately, the left’s disingenuous attempts to link gender-critical feminism to racism just make it look desperate.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing effects of the mantra that ‘everyone I don’t like is a fascist’ is that it empties the word of meaning. In a world where everyone with a heterodox opinion is smeared as ‘far right’, those whose opinions do warrant some serious pushback will end up slipping under the radar.

Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.

Picture by: YouTube / The Sun.

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Topics Identity Politics UK

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