Joanna Williams

Mhairi Black’s drag queen stunt has backfired spectacularly

Mhairi Black’s drag queen stunt has backfired spectacularly
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Sometimes a politician displays such spectacularly bad judgement their only option is to lash out at their critics. This appears to explain how the SNP’s Mhairi Black has spent much of the past 24 hours. Black has never knowingly shied away from publicity. Perhaps then we shouldn’t be too surprised at her decision to pop along to a primary school for a reading session with a drag queen in tow. And not just any old drag queen but one with a penchant for sharing sexually explicit posts on social media.

Children have always loved story time. Throwing drag queens into the mix is a far more recent development. Drag queen story hour took off in the US as anxious parents sought to tick off both a visit to the local library and lessons in gender fluidity in one trip. Such sessions are slowly becoming more popular in the UK, with teachers and librarians seeing them as a way to challenge the homophobia and transphobia they perhaps envisage to be lurking deep in the heart of every toddler. Still it’s not every day that your local MP comes along for the ride.

It seems fair to say that the drag queen Black accompanied, Nathan Mullen, aka FlowJob, was used to performing for slightly older audiences (the clue was surely in the name). Mullen has taken to social media again to defend the story time routine:

“You take your kids to see panto at Christmas that has drag. Drag is mainstream now. It’s on our TVs, in the news and all over social media.”

Perhaps it’s just Canterbury, but the dame at my local pantomime was far more interested in shouting ‘Oh yes he is!’ than posting racy pictures online.

It’s astonishing that not just Mhairi Black but also the school itself decided a visit from a drag queen was just what the children of Glencoats primary school in Paisley needed. Presumably FlowJob received an appearance fee. This was money that could, surely, have been better spent on, well, books for the library.

But Black still isn’t backing down. The SNP MP has justified her decision to accompany FlowJob to the primary school by 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.”

This gets to the heart of why the drag queen visit happened. Campaigning MPs like Black, as well as teachers like those at Glencoats Primary, appear to see the role of school not as educational but political. This presumably means challenging old fashioned notions that there are just two sexes. And it means exposing kids to characters like FlowJob. Heteronormativity, it seems, is far too conventional.

Yet rather than having an argument about the rights and wrongs of the gender debate with adults who might dare to disagree with them, campaigners opt to persuade children who can’t answer back. Enter, stage left, the drag queen. The cross-dressing risque performer, once a cheap turn in working men’s clubs, is now also likely to be found reading stories to pre-pubescent children in schools and libraries. The gender-bending, outlandish costumes and crude double-entendres remain. But now the audience is too young to be in on the joke.

In the hands of ideologically-inspired teachers and librarians, nothing is off limits in the drive to shock children out of their heteronormative assumptions. The notion that some topics are not suitable to discuss in front of children or that (whisper it) the role of adults is to protect children from ideas and issues they are too young to need to know about is derided as hopelessly out dated. The views of parents, of course, are deemed to be largely irrelevant.

Since her school visit, Black has explicitly attacked those who she claims have expressed “faux sincerity” about FlowJob’s trip to Glencoats. Taking to Twitter once more, she said:

“You just know that the people pretending to be livid that a drag queen read a book in a school. . . are also the people who run out to buy their kids the latest Grand Theft Auto on release day. Your homophobia is transparent.”

Let’s hope she’s not relying on the votes of any of these parents come the next election.

Black deserves all the criticism that has come her way over her decision to join FlowJob in the visit to the primary school. But before Black got involved in this stunt there was a teacher who thought that having a sexually explicit drag performer come along to read to children was a good idea. And, even before this, there were MPs and civil servants all too ready to act at the behest of campaigners in their demands for ever more relationship and sex education for even the very youngest children. Children at school are a captive audience for adult concerns. It’s imperative we do not abuse this responsibility.