Drag Queens are visiting nurseries across London to perform for children and to teach them valuable lessons in acceptance of the LGBT community, through sing-song.
Nursery bosses hope the colourful sessions with the consummate performers will help children ‘see people who defy rigid gender restrictions’ and prevent the two and three-year-old’s from developing discriminatory ‘isms’.
The performers sing and recite special nursery rhymes to the young audiences, which include messages about LGBT issues. Obviously, classics such as The Hungry Caterpillar are on the book list too.
The performances are the brainchild of Thomas Canham, a Bristol University law graduate and part-time drag queen who set up the company.
The concept initially began in San Francisco, with Michelle Tea’s Drag Queen Story Hour, which flourished across America.
Now, Great British drag queens are emulating the positive message in the UK and hoping to offer young children a complete and all-encompassing view of the world.
Canham set up Drag Queen Story Time in Britain with this mission:
We aim to capture the imagination and fun of the gender fluidity of childhood, while giving children a glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role model.
By providing spaces in which kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions, we allow them to imagine the world in which people can present as they wish…
Once you think about the idea – which is essentially drag queens reading stories to children – it all makes perfect sense.
Ultimately, they are performers, they’re larger than life! It’s exactly what children want.
Canham explained the drag queens have creative control over their acts, adding:
They can include, for example, drag queen references within songs.
So if you’re doing something like Wheels On The Bus, you can sing, ‘The skirt on the drag queen goes swish, swish, swish.’
The parents love it and the children love it too – especially when you’ve got a six-year-old boy there in a princess dress which he isn’t allowed to wear at home because his dad doesn’t like it.
Drag Queen Story Time will hold sessions at seven nurseries run by the London Early Years Foundation over the winter, with the view to rolling them out across the nursery’s 37 sites.
Drag Queens are a stalwart of the performance scene, creating their own vibrant counter-culture beyond the mainstream and entertaining children in pantos up and down the country for decades, with their much-maligned art form.
Yet some people have responded with the knee-jerk, ‘Not In Our Classroom’ reaction.
Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, told The Daily Mail:
One of the most disturbing things about the transgender agenda is the way that it tries to distort our perception of reality and deny something as fundamental as the distinction between male and female.
They also spoke to Dilys Daws, co-author of the book Finding Your Way With Your Baby, who said:
There’s this idea that’s sweeping the country that being transgender is an ‘ordinary situation’.
It’s getting so much publicity that it’s getting children thinking that they might be transgender, when it otherwise wouldn’t have occurred to them.
But it’s perfectly normal for most young children to think about being the opposite sex. It’s probably because they are identifying with a parent or sibling.
Drag Queen Story Time and the other outfits like it, hope to encourage those ‘perfectly normal’ behaviours and let kids know it’s okay to identify, or simply empathise with a parent or sibling of the opposite sex, while having fun and retaining a child-like glee.
Remember being a kid and going to panto? The most captivating character on stage was always the moralising and majestic Window Twanky, invariably dressed up and performing in drag.
If you can bring some of that creativity, magic and sparkle into the classroom to teach love and acceptance, how can it be a bad thing?
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.