This is the tale of a school called Glencoats Primary School in Paisley, Scotland. One day, a drag queen with a most racy social media profile, called FlowJob (no, really), and a Scottish National Party MP, Mhairi Black, visited the school as part of LGBT History Month to read a story and discuss Section 28 (long-repealed Scottish legislation prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality in schools) to four- and five-year-olds in the first year of primary school. When the story got out, the school closed its Twitter account to non-followers/non-followed, the headteacher (Michelle Watson) did the same, and LGBT Youth Scotland blocked anybody who dared raise a whiff of criticism of the event.
Soon afterwards, the local council where the school is located, Renfrewshire, apologised, stating that had aspects of the drag queen been known (e.g. his social media profile), he would not have been hired. John Swinney of the Scottish Government also apologised and said the visit should not have happened. Yet despite apologies from official sources, many people, including LGBT organisations, politicians (including SNP ones, and, yes, including Mhairi Black MP herself), journalists, social commentators and activists are defending the visit.
Of course, it is all over the news. The story is trending in social media, and articles (in defence of the drag queen visit) are defending it in terms of the usual and tired tropes; inclusion, diversity and tackling LGBT bullying. The banal, thoughtless defences go along the lines of “it’s a man in a dress; what’s the harm?”, or “it shows kids that one can express oneself freely”. A very thoughtless defence was delivered by Orwell Prize winner Darren McGarvey in an article in the Daily Record (27 February 2020):
Children in primary school are smart enough to understand concepts like death, illness, and war, but not sexual identity and relationships?
What is omitted from the defence of this event — as indeed it was, glaringly, in McGarvey’s article — was that the parents had not been informed beforehand about the visit. Furthermore, at present, the parents and the public are at a loss to understand who booked the act for the visit; who did the risk assessment for the visit; who signed it off; and, of course, what role Mhairi Black MP played in arranging the visit.
I suppose the council and John Swinney feel that an apology is enough, that it was just a blip, and everything can go back to normal and resume as it was. But no, it cannot. This is not the only Scottish school booking inappropriate drag queens for school events. Dunbar Grammar School in East Lothian had a drag act pulled from its line up for its Happy Fest event on 19 February 2020. The Scottish Family Party made two videos (on YouTube) about this Happy Fest event; it was they who succeeded in getting the act pulled. The big question is: why has the Scottish Government not apologised for this event at Dunbar? Indeed, East Lothian Council were defiant in their defence of the Happy Fest event. An East Lothian Council spokeswoman, reported in an article in the East Lothian Courier on 13 February 2020, said:
We strongly refute any suggestion that we ‘promote a philosophy’ that is ‘confusing and dangerous to young people'.
Yet they cancelled the drag act. If the act was (eventually) deemed inappropriate, does that mean the act was not in line with their philosophy? Was the act not confusing or dangerous to young people? If the school was doing nothing wrong, why cancel the act after people raised concerns? I suppose the big question is: why has the Scottish Government been utterly silent on Dunbar Grammar School, yet apologised for Glencoats Primary school’s DragGate? Something does not add up.
The aforementioned article in the East Lothian Courier (which supported Dunbar Happy Fest, along with Pride Saltire) closed and deleted comments on the article on the newspaper's website soon after publication, giving no reason for this action. The reason, I suspect, is because the comments showed that there was outrage that a highly sexualised drag act had been booked by the school for children as young as 11.
Returning to the McGarvey article in defence of the event that took place at Glencoats Primary School, his argument is laced with a (not insignificant) dose of parent-bashing. From the title of the article:
Hysteria drowns out the real debate going on after controversial drag queen visit to school.
And he writes passages such as:
It is therefore not hard to see why many believe an undercurrent of homophobia is at play — it undoubtedly is.
While I am hesitant to outrightly rubbish (let me be polite) non-rational parental anxiety, I must iterate that being queer is not a learned behaviour — it can’t be taught, only accepted.
LGBTQ education is primarily about making it safe for people to come to terms with who they are and educating others on how to support them.
Still, this issue isn’t cut and dry — and Twitter doesn’t make it any easier. We may never know a parent’s reason for being unnerved by the thought of a stranger discussing intimate topics with their children — especially when so young and with someone nicknamed after a sex act.
Those more understandable concerns were, however, predictably coloured by those who saw the episode as a green light to broadcast their ignorance, confusing vague, reactionary impulse with reasoned argument and conflating queer culture with sexual deviance — a classic homophobic trope.
This I condemn in the firmest possible terms.
The school apologised but let’s be clear what for. It doesn’t change the fact LGBTQ-inclusive education is essential in a 21st-century curriculum.
McGarvey’s disdain for parental concern over the drag queen visit to Glencoats is summed up in this tweet by him:
Parents are entitled to express any concerns regarding what their children are exposed to at school. But also worth bearing in mind that the biggest influence on child's development are parents and caregivers. People they know. Anyway good night x
Unsurprisingly, McGarvey is a champion of the Adverse Childhood Experiences “movement” in Scotland (ACEs), essentially a Named Person Mark II, designed to impose Big Brother state meddling on children and family life. What is surprising is that McGarvey is an Orwell Prize winner, yet, despite this, he supports the ACE movement, which to all intents and purposes is an Orwellian “risk prevention” social policy initiative. He is also a big supporter of the TIE Campaign ("Time for Inclusive Education", which advocates LGBT inclusive education in Scottish schools). It is no wonder, then, that his article rings with a tone of parental chastisement, doused with the spell-word of “homophobia” and the essential need for children to be exposed to queer theory and gender/trans ideology from Primary 1 (age 4/5) upwards.
The support of the drag queen visit to Glencoats Primary School and of queer theory by McGarvey and others in schools is misguided. The advocates of it obviously do not understand queer theory and its role in schools.
Queer theory underpins the philosophy of LGBT-inclusive programmes such as the No Outsiders project in England and the TIE campaign in Scotland. The objectives of queer theory are to understand the operation of “heteronormativity” (heterosexual behaviour, lifestyle), its normalisation, and to develop means to challenge its normativity, in primary schools.
A more sinister aim of queer theory is to address the omission in primary schools of sexuality, pleasure, bodies and desire, which ordinarily within educational settings with children is omitted (quite rightly, in my opinion) in order to protect children.
The reason given by pro-queer theorists to justify the decision to “correct” this omission is that it denies children engagement with vital information about sexualities, silences the sexual voice of children and erases their sexual agency; that it exists to explore how to make “safe spaces” in primary schools in which children can talk about sexualities, their parents’ sexualities, their parents’ friends’ sexualities and indeed the sexualities of the children. Indeed, queer theorists argue that teachers also should discuss their own sexualities. The aim of these interventions? To confound or confuse heterosexuality or heteronormativity.
There is an even darker aspect of queering the classroom. This entails the overt disdain for heteronormativity and the rejection of heterosexuality and reproduction.
Queer theorists argue that there is a need to challenge "reproductive futurism" (the human reproduction of children and its heterosexual nature) and that queering the classroom and human reproduction are at odds with each other. Queer philosophy goes yet further. It questions the rationale for teaching children at all, as queer existences or lifestyles are antagonistic to a reproductive future; as in heteronormativity, where the future, child and family are valued. The notion of the family, a biological Mum and Dad, heterosexuality, commitment to heterosexual monogamy, and devotion to one’s children and to the future of mankind all need to be sacrificed on the altar of queer theory. Therefore, queer theorists present alternative sexualities (LGBT/queer sexualities), alternative lifestyles (e.g. open relationships/polyamory), and the proposition that sex is only for pleasure and that immediate gratification is the ideal of a queer utopia.
These ideas are perhaps appropriate for the realms of university study, adult behaviour and lifestyle, but they are certainly not appropriate in a child’s primary school classroom.
Now, this is the really serious part, which defenders of drag queens and queer theory in schools should really think about. Inviting the child into the adult sexual world, even to sexual ideas, can be very risky. As victims of child sexual abuse attest to, exposure to physical acts or the sexual idea, at an age where it is not appropriate can have lasting damage. People defending this "event" and/or queer theory and gender ideology in schools are wittingly or unwittingly advocating that children be exposed to possible trauma or abuse. As someone who has worked with sex offenders and victims of childhood sexual abuse, I can also testify that the sexual idea imposed upon a child can indeed be a very powerful destabiliser of a child’s life. An adult’s narcissistic desire to induce children into the adult sexual world through education is inappropriate. The thing is, the heterosexual adult sexual world is not being pushed on to schoolchildren either, so why is there the need for the anti-heteronormativity agenda? These same points were raised by the Values Foundation in a meeting on Relationships and Sexual Education held at the Houses of Parliament on 27 February 2020.
But let us end on — I apologise — a sober reminder of some darker aspects of childhood sexual abuse which the general narrative of defence is avoiding. Dr Jacqui Dillon, herself a victim of childhood sexual abuse, bravely wrote in the Morning Star, in her article “Easy as PIE — the rebranding of paedophilia”, on 12 September 2019:
Perpetrators frequently Deny their behaviour, Attack the individual who is holding them to account and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender, so that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the victim into the alleged perpetrator.
The behaviour of these “Maps” * is entirely consistent with perpetrator behaviour.”
* MAPS — Minor-Attracted Persons
And let us not forget a publication highlighted on Twitter by Dr E.M. Pankhurst, The Betrayal of Youth, in which the authors argued for the legitimacy of childhood sexuality and the lowering of the age of consent. In this, they were following the example of many queer theorists, including Michel Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Julia Kristeva.
Of course, I am not suggesting everyone defending queer theory or gender/trans ideology in schools is wittingly advocating child abuse. Far from it. I am just highlighting how the narrative around these topics has normalised the idea of childhood sexuality, the necessity of queering childhood. It is striking how similar this narrative has become to advocates holding more sinister motives. That is highly concerning and needs to be acknowledged.
In addition, this narrative has history. I think it would do us well to meditate on the words of the cultural-Marxist psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who was for the destruction of the family and the deconstruction of the norms regarding sexual behaviour and practices, for purely political ends; a so-called liberated society, but whereby the sexual liberation becomes a form of political control:
In contrast, a child whose motor activity is completely free, and whose natural sexuality has been liberated in sexual play, will oppose strictly authoritarian, ascetic influences. Political reaction can always compete with revolutionary education in the authoritarian, superficial influencing of children. But it can never do so in the realm of sexual education. No reactionary ideology or political orientation can ever accomplish for children what a social revolution can with respect to their sexual life. In terms of processions, marches, songs, banners, and uniforms, however, reaction undoubtedly has more to offer. We thus see the revolutionary structuring of the child must involve the freeing of his biological motility. This is indisputable.' (W. Reich, 1936, The Sexual Revolution)
It seems to be quite clear that to target children with “educational” programmes focussed on LGBT (with a heavy focus on the T) sex education (with a focus on blatantly pornographic content/ideas/ideology/queer theory) is an attempt at "freeing the sexual motility" of children, which will have damaging knock-on effects: a questioning and confusion regarding gender, sexuality and sexual behaviour, and an inappropriate exposure to sexual ideas before the relevant developmental milestones have been reached. The reality of biological sex and the importance of biological families (e.g. mum, dad) are all being undermined by current Scottish education policies, and are being defended by those who advocate drag-queen story time and queer theory in schools.
Here ends the dark tale of defence.