A few weeks ago, a news story came up onto our news feed about an after school programme in the US city of Philadelphia causing controversy when it invited a drag queen to read to its primary-aged children.
Supervisor Mark Simmons at Haddonfield Child Care supposedly invited a drag queen called Martha Graham Cracker to read a Dr Seuss book to the children and perform child-friendly songs. According to The Christian Institute he said that he usually invites “local authors, police, politicians and illustrators”, but wanted to ask Martha, because he was “trying to add a bit of variety to our program”.
However, his decision to invite a drag queen into the school grounds caused a major backlash. Officials at the after school programme decided to revoke the drag queen’s invitation, deeming it “inappropriate”. Considering the school’s decision, this led us to ask the following question: Should children be exposed to drag queens and transvestism?
British LGBT campaign group Stonewall certainly seem to think so. In 2011, primary school teachers throughout the UK were sent a “teacher training pack” in order to tackle homophobic bullying. The training pack included a DVD containing“best practice” tips from primary teachers. The DVD showed teachers recommending that boys in primary school should be encouraged to try on dresses or dance with pompoms in the cheerleading team.
The DVD also shows an interview with Ruth Platt, a class teacher at St Matthews Primary School in Cambridgeshire, who says boys shouldn’t be restricted from wearing dresses. She said: “I had a group of boys last year and every day they came into school and they wanted to wear the dressing up dresses, and they really loved wearing the dresses … Within the culture of the classroom I wanted to say that that was okay. So when other boys were saying ‘why are they wearing dresses, they shouldn’t be wearing them’, I said ‘no that’s fine, if they want to wear the dresses that’s up to them’. So we encourage that kind of individuality.”
Another organisation in favour of introducing LGBT issues into the school curriculum is The Schools Out. The Schools Out organisation, declares on its website that the aim is to “celebrate the lives and achievements of the LGBT community” and “encourage everyone to see diversity and cultural pluralism as positive forces”. In February 2011, they ran a month-long event in order to celebrate “LGBT History Month”. The initiative was to encourage teaching about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual issues through lesson plans aimed at pupils as young as four.
David Watkins, a teacher involved in the scheme, told the Telegraph: “We don’t want teachers to start out saying ‘This is a gay lesson’. We just want lessons that don’t ignore that there are lesbian and gay people who suffer from issues and problems. When you have a maths problem, why does it have to involve a straight family or a boyfriend and girlfriend? Why not two boys or two girls? It’s not about teaching about gay sex, it is about images and exposing children to the idea that there are other types of people out there.”
However, some religious groups have shown their disdain for these types of projects. Charisma News, a Christian news website, stated in the title of their news piece that the drag queen’s invitation was an invasion of parental rights. They also condemned another teacher who in January this year was suspended after school children aged nine to ten in Canada were shown a video of bikini-clad drag queens as part of a class on “transgender issues”. According to the article, furious parents had complained to the school and the teacher, Joe Winkler, was suspended while authorities carried out an investigation. Mr Winkler said: “When I found the video, I thought it would be an excellent way of introducing the children to transgender issues.”
One thing, however, which has become clear from the implied negative reactions to LGBT issues being introduced to children is that no one is willing to speak out exactly why they’re upset. Parents and society at large needs to realise that in this day and age homosexuality and transvestism are part of our culture, and is something that should be accepted and embraced. After all, children are the future, and hate towards the LGBT/trans community is taught, not born.