Drag Queen Story Time event defended by Newham Council after Twitter attacks
PUBLISHED: 12:00 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:54 11 February 2020
The council has defended drag queens telling stories to toddlers as part of its LGBT history month celebrations following online trolling.
Newham Council's Twitter account saw 1,600 messages in response to a tweet publicising the first of its Drag Queen Story Times in Canning Town Library on February 7.
A majority of users attacked the plans, questioning how appropriate the event was, while a few signalled their support.
Deputy Mayor and lead member for community neighbourhoods, Cllr Charlene McLean, said: "These special reading events are designed to be fun, capture the imagination of children and get them used to embracing differences in others and treating everyone as equal from an early age.
"These events are purely voluntary and the response from parents who have attended has been very positive."
She added that Drag Queen Story Time began in the USA and is now popular in libraries across Great Britain.
The organisers' website describes its aims as capturing the imagination and fun of children's gender fluidity while giving youngsters positive "queer" role models.
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Cllr McLean said: "Performers encourage children of all ages to embrace their individuality and spread a message of tolerance. It also gives them the opportunity to hear literature read in a way they may not have experienced before."
Social media user @carl83o asked in one tweet: "What is the purpose or benefit of under 5s being read a story by a man dressed as a woman? Genuinely interested to know the reason a council would run these sessions. Why are drag queens specifically wanting to read stories to other people's kids?"
@Glammie8 commented: "I have nothing against LGBTQ. However I am confused as to why or how this story time in drag has become a thing!"
Cllr McLean said: "The vast majority of the online abuse directed at these events has not come from Newham residents, in fact most of it has been posted from outside this country.
"Newham is a borough which rejoices in its diversity, and inclusivity. Any hate speech, be it based on gender, religion, sexual orientation, race or disability is not tolerated here, and I condemn the trolling of this event in the strongest terms."
London Assembly member Unmesh Desai said: "It is incredibly sad to see the volume of abuse levelled towards the council for promoting this initiative which seeks to teach our children important values of equality and inclusivity through the enjoyment of storytelling.
"Whilst most of the comments come from accounts outside of Newham and the capital, in the wake of the shameful rise in homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, it is important that we call out this kind of abuse wherever it rears its ugly head.
"London's strength lies in its diversity and this will be proudly celebrated throughout LGBT History Month. Those offended by these storytelling sessions clearly need to get out more."
For details of Newham's LGBT History Month plans visit newhamlgbthistory.org