FET comments on article on Drag Queen Story Hour

On Tuesday 26th July, FET was asked to comment on a story about a group of parents and others protesting against the launch of Drag Queen Story Hour at a library in Reading. The event was also targeted by pro LGBTQ+ activists who were supporting the drag queen performer Sab Samuel, who performs as Aida H Dee. Our full response to the protests was given to the Telegraph by Senior Researcher Piers Shepherd:

“The arrival of Drag Queen Hour at local libraries across the country has stoked considerable anger among parents and others concerned about the safety of children. We have said before that even if we were to treat these events as purely entertainment, they would be highly inappropriate for children 3-11 (the stated target audience) given that the images of men dressed as women are highly sexualised. Drag shows are adults-only entertainment and not suitable for school age children.

Given the disregard that many libraries are showing for concerns about the potential sexualisation of children, it was inevitable that some might choose to launch in-person protests at the venues where these events are taking place. As seen in Reading, the council responded to these in a disproportionate manner, getting police to bring a riot van to the scene. We assume that similar scenes and measures will be employed at other libraries.

It is a matter of concern that police resources will be used in this way when there are so many pressing problems in need of their attention. The simple solution to this problem is for councils to call off the grossly age-inappropriate Drag Queen Story Hour and restore the local library to its proper place as a family friendly environment where parents can take their children without fear that they will be exposed to inappropriate material.”

The story with links to videos can be seen online in the Telegraph, where it received 700 comments from concerned readers.

The first drag queen “story hour” for children in a UK-wide tour of council libraries has descended into chaos after it was stormed by protesters.

Almost 70 events in 20 areas of Britain are being visited over the next two months by Drag Queen Story Hour UK, a group that hosts sessions for three to 11-year-olds.

The project is run by Sab Samuel, a 27-year-old autistic male children’s author, who performs as Aida H Dee in a sequined dress with heavy make-up.

But the first event for families at Reading Borough Council libraries erupted in a dramatic row, as Mr Samuel was given a police escort next to a riot van and demonstrators chanted “paedophile”.

About a dozen parents and young children were seen dancing with the drag queen in Reading Central Library on Monday – against a din of chants from outside the venue, where council officials had planned a heavy police presence.

It was derailed when two mothers, who had infiltrated the ticket-only class, stood up and confronted Mr Samuel. They shouted: “You’re allowing child grooming to take place, this is disgusting, do you know what autogynephilia is?”

Autogynephilia is when males are sexually aroused by the thought of themselves being female.

One unidentified mother, holding a pram and filming the drag queen, shouted in front of the assembled crowd: “You’re probably teaching kids that there’s 100 genders, there’s only two sexes, no man can be a woman. We’re here to protect children.”

They were escorted out by police officers and security guards while parents cheered. Rows of dozens of uniformed police officers stood guard outside the library, where a group vowed to perform a “citizen’s arrest” of the drag queen.

They branded the police officers and council staff, who refused to let them in, as “paedophile protectors” and brandished banners and megaphones.

Mr Samuel, dressed in sparkly leggings, was eventually escorted out of the library’s back door by police officers who carried his bags and loaded his car, while a “human wall” of officers and a riot van separated him from protesters.

The tour, involving 3,000 children with tickets open to all parents, claims to “teach inclusivity” and “get fabulous”. It is promoted on council websites.

After Reading, the summer tour is visiting council libraries in areas such as Crewe, Bristol, Cornwall, Brighton and Hove, Portsmouth, Leeds, Cardiff, Rochdale, Bolton and Somerset. More protests are planned elsewhere.

On Tuesday, other campaigners questioned whether the rest of the tour was now feasible, having spent weeks peacefully petitioning councils not to endorse the “sexualised” appearance of men dressed as women.

Piers Shepherd, a senior researcher at the Family Education Trust charity, said: “It is a matter of concern that police resources will be used in this way when there are so many pressing problems in need of their attention.

“The simple solution to this problem is for councils to call off the grossly age-inappropriate Drag Queen Story Hour and restore the local library to its proper place as a family friendly environment.”

Tanya Carter, spokesman for Safe Schools Alliance – a non-religious group of parents and teachers with many LGBT supporters – said she was “absolutely horrified that things have got to this stage”.

“We’re now not only concerned about the safeguarding of children with regards to what they’re potentially seeing at shows, but we’re also worried about the safety of children with violent protesters and a large police presence,” she said.

But Drag Queen Story Hour UK hit back, saying the protests had “successfully made a few children scared and a mother sob”.

The group, which says its performers are DBS checked, said in a statement: “The drag queen, after finishing the story hour, had to be escorted out of the library by the police to the next story hour show in Tilehurst Library. Numerous messages of support have been sent to the performer and Aida is safe.”

The drag queen storytime movement began in the US in 2015. It billed as an attempt to promote “queer role models” and the “gender fluidity of childhood”, and has sparked fury in US schools. Critics contend that the drag movement conflates biological sex and gender.

A Reading Borough Council spokesman described the protests as “extremely disappointing” and the classes were “age-appropriate”.

The spokesman added: “This was a ticketed event and all parents attending were aware of the nature of the performance. It is regretful that some people chose not to respect parental choice.

“The council does not tolerate threats or abuse against our staff, members of the public or the entertainers we have invited to perform at our venues.”

Thames Valley Police confirmed it attended the protest but no arrests were made. The council and police declined to reveal their security costs.

Protesters storm first drag queen storytime for primary school children (