They say it’s harmless fun, but some parents think it’s inappropriate indoctrination… So why ARE our councils spending taxpayers’ cash on getting drag queens to read stories to children? Asks KATHRYN KNIGHT
A drag queen called Sab Samuel used to post all manner of eye-opening pictures and outlandish comments on social media.
In one such post, dated April 2019, the 27-year-old from Cardiff made a crude joke about an orgy, which is definitely not repeatable in a family newspaper.
In another from July 2020, he proclaimed that ‘love has no age’, a phrase once adopted by the now-defunct campaigning organisation Paedophile Information Exchange in its revolting crusade to lower the age of sexual consent so that adults could have sex with children.
In a similarly unpleasant — and now-deleted — offering last November, Samuel threatened to publish the personal information of a female critic and as recently as April, he aimed an abusive threat at ‘Terfs’ — the unflattering slur hurled by hardcore trans-rights activists against those they believe are trying to curtail their right to identify as their chosen gender simply by declaring it out loud.
Other questionable images he has posted include a picture of a pubescent boy and an older man accompanied by a comment remarking that gay clubs are ‘wild’ as you can ‘meet both types and be told both are 23’.
Sab Samuel (pictured) — performing as his flamboyant alter ego ‘Aida H Dee’, a play on the neurological disorder ADHD — is undertaking a nationwide tour on which he takes over ‘storytime’ at our local libraries
Waving placards with slogans such as ‘Let kids be kids’ and ‘Stop grooming kids’, on one occasion a group tried — unsuccessfully — to perform a citizen’s arrest on Samuel as he left a library in a Bristol suburb. Pictured: A protest against the Drag Queen Story Hour event at Welling Library on July 30
The protesters have been met with equally robust opposition from a pro-LGBT crowd — frequently masked and wearing dark glasses — waving rainbow flags and shouting that the protesters are ‘homophobic’ and’ fascists’. Pictured: Protesters in favour of the Drag Queen Story Hour at Welling Library
In a world caught in an ongoing culture war over sex, gender and identity, none of this material, dismaying though it may be, arguably comes as a surprise.
There are thousands, if not millions, of similar posts all over the internet. Many of them not mysteriously removed as those of Samuel’s have been in recent months.
What may be more startling is that at the moment, Samuel — performing as his flamboyant alter ego ‘Aida H Dee’, a play on the neurological disorder ADHD — is undertaking a nationwide tour on which he takes over ‘storytime’ at our local libraries.
Clad in a tight-fitting sequinned rainbow costume — through which, on occasions, the outline of his genitalia can clearly be seen — he reads his self-authored books on ‘diversity’ — including a book called It’s Snot A Problem about lesbian hedgehogs — to an audience comprised largely of toddlers, all paid for by local taxpayers through their council tax.
Samuel’s tour is called Drag Queen Story Hour UK, part of a new phenomenon which gained greater public prominence last week when it emerged that angry protesters had gathered at venues on Samuel’s 70-strong tour demanding the event be called off.
Waving placards with slogans such as ‘Let kids be kids’ and ‘Stop grooming kids’, on one occasion a group tried — unsuccessfully — to perform a citizen’s arrest on Samuel as he left a library in a Bristol suburb.
The protesters have been met with equally robust opposition from a pro-LGBT crowd — frequently masked and wearing dark glasses — waving rainbow flags and shouting that the protesters are ‘homophobic’ and’ fascists’.
At first glance, this could be seen as another overblown chapter of the culture wars, a storm in a teacup in which pearl-clutching traditionalists are agog about nothing more harmful than a panto dame reading story books to children.
After all, spectacles such as the television hit RuPaul’s Drag Race and the hit coming-of-age musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which follows the story of a teenage boy as he pursues his dream of becoming a drag queen, have brought the act firmly into the mainstream.
And certainly, on his Drag Queen Story Hour UK website, Samuel emphasises his focus on promoting nothing more sinister than literacy and childhood aspirations.
‘We can change the world book by book!’ he proclaims, adding in a worrying sentence for one keen to promote greater literacy: ‘We are built out of the dreams of children, let these dreams be fabulous.’
Yet as a Daily Mail investigation has exposed, behind these seemingly innocuous statements lies an altogether more sinister backdrop.
A deep dive into the murky world behind the ‘panto glitter’ façade of his colourful web material shows that Samuel — along with his contemporaries and supporters — has in fact been responsible for posting reams of sexually explicit material. Pictured: Sab Samuel as Aida H Dee Aida poses with police officers at Drag Queen Story Hour outside Bodmin Library on Tuesday, August 2
Pioneered by ‘queer activist’ Michelle Tea, the Drag Queen Story Hour events were first trialled in 2015 at a public library in San Francisco. Pictured: Protests in support of Sab Samuel outside Welling Library on July 30
Many had previously written to the library to ask for the event to be cancelled. ‘They wrote back saying they wanted to be inclusive — but the reality is that their definition of ‘diversity and inclusion’ is a very narrow one,’ said 67-year-old Pat, a former college lecturer and mother-of-two grown-up children who was among those who had given up her morning to protest at Samuel’s presence. Pictured: Protesters against the Drag Queen Story Hour event at Welling Library
A deep dive into the murky world behind the ‘panto glitter’ façade of his colourful web material shows that Samuel — along with his contemporaries and supporters — has in fact been responsible for posting reams of sexually explicit material.
He has fundraised for transgender groups advocating the use of hormone treatment for children as young as 12.
Other Drag Queen Story Hour websites, meanwhile, make clear that the aim of the performances is to ‘explore gender fluidity’, ‘provide queer role models’ and ‘break down the notion of a sex binary’.
It’s all a long way from A Very Hungry Caterpillar, as became evident on a humid Tuesday morning when Samuel’s tour arrived at Bodmin Library to be greeted by two sets of placard-waving protesters — one calling for the event to be called off, and the other a small gaggle of supporters from Cornwall Pride who stood behind a rainbow flag and declined to be interviewed.
Security was tight, with four police officers and a plethora of council staff manning the entrance, not to mention Samuel’s own security guard, who refused the Daily Mail’s request to sit in on Aida’s storytime session. Requests for an interview also went unanswered.
‘If he wants to be transparent and has nothing to hide, why won’t he let you in to see it?’ asked a protester, one of a robust group — comprising all ages and professions — who had gathered to express their disquiet at Samuel’s arrival.
Many had previously written to the library to ask for the event to be cancelled. ‘They wrote back saying they wanted to be inclusive — but the reality is that their definition of ‘diversity and inclusion’ is a very narrow one,’ said 67-year-old Pat, a former college lecturer and mother-of-two grown-up children who was among those who had given up her morning to protest at Samuel’s presence.
Her view is also shared by a number of campaigning organisations, among them the Women’s Rights Network UK, who were among the first to highlight concerns about Drag Queen Story Hour and who have called for the events to be abolished.
‘Drag Queen Story Hour is very far from the innocuous presence that many people assume,’ says Women’s Rights Network’s Claire Loneragan.
‘Quite aside from the fact that drag is adult sexualised entertainment, children are already being force-fed gender ideology — drag further normalises this in the adult world and confuses them.’
It’s a sentiment echoed by non-profit organisation The Family Education Trust, which describes the events as ‘highly inappropriate’.
‘Drag shows are adults-only entertainment and not suitable for school-age children,’ said senior researcher Piers Shepherd.
‘When we expose children to sexual material, we blur the boundaries between adults and children, exposing them to adult sexual concepts and we risk normalising the sexualisation of children.’
The Safe Schools Alliance campaign group has gone one step further, calling the idea of drag queens in children’s environments ‘an abuse of power’.
Pioneered by ‘queer activist’ Michelle Tea, the Drag Queen Story Hour events were first trialled in 2015 at a public library in San Francisco. Since then, all manner of drag queen shows aimed at the under-12s have sprung up around the U.S. — among them ‘Bring Baby Drag Bingo’, ‘Drag Queen Kids Klub’ and ‘Drag Queen Brunch’.
They have attracted serious controversy on more than one occasion. A recent event in Minnesota saw a performer dressed in a miniskirt, crop top and high heels flash his crotch at nursery age children.
Last month, a drag queen clad in thigh-high black boots, and with much of his backside on show, was filmed teaching a child to dance for cash tips at a ‘family-friendly’ drag show in California.
‘Look how much money you just made,’ he tells her.
Another drag event marketed at ‘under-18s’ held in Washington State three years ago included a strip-tease performance by a performer wearing fishnet tights and thigh-high patent leather boots.
The events reached Britain about three years ago, when the British Library promoted a children’s event with drag entertainer Alyssa Van Delle, calling her a ‘hot’ performer who will ‘have you on the edge of your seat and gagging for more’.
Many parents expressed their outrage, but since then there has been a steady rise in the number of drag queens — many with deliberately sexualised names such as ‘FlowJob’ and ‘Courtney Act’ — being brought into educational settings as part of teaching on ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’.
FlowJob — real name Nathan Mullen — was given the rubber-stamp of political legitimacy when he was accompanied to a reading session for children as young as four at a primary school in Paisley as part of an LGBTQ drive in February 2020 by the lesbian SNP politician Mhairi Black.
Those who questioned the rationale behind inviting a self-professed adult entertainer — Mullen’s Twitter feed includes footage of him simulating a sex act with a dildo — into a primary school were smeared as bigots.
Black herself tweeted that the criticisms were ‘homophobic’ adding that a visit from a gay MP and drag queen when she was at school ‘would have made an immeasurable difference’ to the ‘difficult childhoods’ endured by her and her ‘LGBT classmates’.
Stella Creasy (pictured), the Labour MP for Walthamstow tweeted last week that she had taken her infant son to a show by a drag queen called Greta Tude
Not to be outdone, Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, also jumped on the drag queen bandwagon.
She tweeted last week that she had taken her infant son to a show in which a drag queen called Greta Tude ‘put so much energy into storytelling and entertaining children’. Her colleague Nadia Whittome described it as ‘wholesome’.
But the Women’s Network’s Claire Loneragan argues drag queens make dubious role models for children. ‘Drag is misogynistic,’ she says. ‘Drag performers frequently reduce women to hyper-sexualised, big-breasted, big-haired bimbos.
‘It also gives a very reductive vision of gay men. And even if sexualised behaviour is toned down, children are also quite able to look things up on the internet.’
Of Sab Samuel, she says: ‘He is not a qualified counsellor. How is he being allowed this kind of access and influence?’
These concerns have been echoed in some parts of the drag scene itself, including by gay American drag queen Kitty Demure, who has compared Drag Queen Story Hour to having ‘a stripper or a porn star to influence your child’.
In a video directed at fans, he said: ‘I have no idea why you want drag queens to read books to your children. Would you want a stripper or a porn star to influence your child? It makes no sense at all.
‘A drag queen performs in a nightclub for adults. There is a lot of filth that goes on, a lot of sexual stuff that goes on, and backstage there’s a lot of nudity and sex and drugs. OK? So I don’t think this is an avenue that you would want your child to explore.’
Despite these concerns, scores of councils have signed up for Aida H Dee’s story hour, for which he is paid £150 per one-hour story-time session. Tickets are free and he often gives up to three ‘performances’ a day.
That fee was obtained through the Freedom Of Information Act, as many councils chose to draw a veil of secrecy over their decision to host Drag Queen Story Hours.
Last weekend, it emerged that more than 100 librarians had held a ‘webinar’ to plan how to handle the concerns of parents over Aida H Dee’s arrival. It was suggested that the drag queens be labelled ‘pantomime dames’ instead to deflect parents’ concerns.
These concerns have been echoed in some parts of the drag scene itself, including by gay American drag queen Kitty Demure, who has compared Drag Queen Story Hour to having ‘a stripper or a porn star to influence your child’
Not everyone has been fooled: a parent in Stockton, County Durham — where Samuel’s tour is due to arrive in a week’s time —asked why the council were hiring an adult entertainer to read to children.
But in response the council said it supported ‘diversity’ — that word again — across the borough, reiterated the event has no element of adult entertainment and stated that ‘those who have concerns about the views of the drag queen need not attend’.
It is a sentiment that angered those protesters in Bodmin this week. ‘Our concerns are about the sexualisation of children,’ says Pat.
‘The insult always thrown at us is homophobia but that is just a cheap shot. We are not against dressing up, or being yourself or anyone’s sexuality — what we are against is introducing sexuality into the lives of young children and blurring the boundaries about what is acceptable in terms of adult interaction with children.’
It was a view echoed by Sarah, a 35-year-old carer. ‘Drag is being romanticised as something positive and fun for kids to engage with, but behind the rainbow flags and unicorns there is an agenda at play. We are at the thin end of a wedge and down the line we will find ourselves wondering how on earth we got into it.’