Mhairi Black, the Scottish National Party MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, recently caused controversy when she brought a drag queen to visit a local primary school. Parents expressed outrage that Flowjob (The drag queen in question) had been invited to read a storybook to 4 and 5 year olds, despite having a lot of sexually explicit content online.
Black, who is a lesbian, justified the decision on Twitter, tweeting ‘If my school had invited a gay MP and a drag queen to visit during LGBT History Month, or even acknowledged that LGBT History Month existed, it would have made an immeasurable difference to the difficult childhoods my LGBT classmates and I had.’
Guardian journalist Owen Jones agreed, responding ‘Same’. He wasn’t alone – Black’s tweet has received over 11,000 likes at the time of this article being written.
On the face of it, this is admirable. There are undoubtedly young people who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, who risk being shunned by their peers. It would be in all of our interests to make life easier for them. That’s why I have previously written articles in support of LGBT-inclusive education, in the hopes that it makes life easier for young gay men and lesbians. Growing up can be hard enough, without adding additional stigma into the mix.
However, I believe Black’s response to her critics was disingenuous for several reasons.
Firstly, Black framed the backlash to the visit as pure homophobia. She railed off a list of issues that LGBT people face in society – mental health problems and higher rates of suicide – and suggested that the parents’ discomfort with Flowjob was making young LGBT people feel like they should hide themselves.
To suggest that any opposition to drag queen story-times (As they’ve come to be called) is rooted in homophobia is an emotive and reductive argument. There are many gay people who will agree that drag queens are not child-friendly entertainment – do they all have internalised homophobia?
Accusing people of bigotry is an easy way to discredit somebody’s argument right off the bat. After all, bigotry is irrational and who would want to listen to an irrational person?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Black did get some homophobic abuse thrown her way. But by and large, most people I saw discussing this incident online were doing so in a respectful way.
In subsequent tweets, Black railed against parents for their ‘faux sincerity’ before going on to suggest that parents who complained about Flowjob’s visit would buy their children games with adult content.
Not only is this a straw-man argument, it completely ignores all the issues raised by Black’s critics.
The reason parents – and many others – don’t think that Flowjob is suitable to read to schoolchildren is pretty self-evident. Her drag name is already a play on a sex act, for a start. The fact that she was referred to as ‘Flow’ during the event is a pretty big clue that her act isn’t suitable for young children.
Her social media accounts are full of suggestive imagery – photographs involving dildos and other sexual acts.
And if that’s how Flowjob wants to live her life, so be it. Drag queens most likely have a great time performing in night clubs. Whenever I’ve been on a night out, I’ve been greatly entertained by them.
They’re notorious for their outspokenness and raunchy humour. Whenever I’ve found myself laughing at the vulgar jokes they often come out with, the thought ‘they’d make great children’s entertainers!’ has never crossed my mind.
Renfrewshire Council put out a statement in the aftermath of the controversy, in which they stressed the importance of learning about equalities and diversity, before concluding, “It is clear in this case, the social media content associated with the speaker's stage persona is not appropriate for children and had we been aware of this, the visit would not have been arranged.”
Hopefully, this incident is a learning curb for schools across the country. I’d imagine that most people would like a degree of tolerance to be taught in schools – mostly for the benefit of students that may be targets for bullying.
But if we are going to achieve such goals, we have to be reasonable and smart with our approach. Children should not be looking up to drag queens as role models. As fun as they are on a night out, they are adult entertainers.
So long as we want to facilitate safe environments for LGBT youth in schools, we should go about it in a reasonable way. The left – who have long advocated for LGBT inclusive education in schools – should be smarter about this, or they’ll risk alienating parents across the country if they continue with such inappropriate antics.
Going full throttle on LGBT education could result in a backlash that could stir up a ‘Culture War’ of American proportions. And that’ll be a disaster for young gays and lesbians trying to figure themselves out.