Library projects and events across the UK, including events like Pride month, are managed by Libraries Connected – this is the organisation that used to be known as the Society of Chief Librarians. Funding mostly comes from the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Arts Council, and they partner with and promote other organisations like The Reading Agency and Book28 to deliver projects to local communities.
The Reading Agency describes itself as a charity set up to promote reading “as a creative tool for social and personal change” and delivers the “reading well” program for children. But it’s not obvious that our libraries should be vehicles of social change, however well intentioned, and the presence of Davinia Green on The Reading Agency board of trustees should ring alarm bells about the nature of that social change, because Davinia Green is also a director of Stonewall Wales.
The association of the librarians with Book28 is even more concerning, because Book28 is a small independent library in Clerkenwell focused entirely on work by trans or “queer” authors. Their guidance for welcoming LGBTQI+ library users includes the promotion of Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH), with criticism of DQSH described as “transphobic”.
We see the influence of Stonewall in CILIP too. CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library & Informational Professionals, and they have an LGBTQ+ Network who, in a now deleted tweet, said “that 'gender critical views' have no place” at the CILIP 2022 conference along with the usual Stonewall mantras.
It’s not surprising that these organisations seem to be influencing the choice of books on the shelves of our libraries too.
Library members can browse the catalogue online and a search of Libraries West (covering Dorset and Somerset) for transgender books throws up 120 titles.
It’s troubling that many of these are aimed at very young children, including:
Introducing Teddy - In my heart, I've always known that I'm a girl teddy, not a boy teddy
Who Are You? - Introduces the notion of gender identity to three-year-olds
The Pronoun Book - ‘gently encourages children to learn pronoun etiquette’
When Aidan Became a Brother celebrates a young girl transitioning
'Twas the Night Before Pride about “rights for queers and all our beautiful genders.”
Vincent the Vixen – you can probably guess the plot of that one
There are plenty of titles for older children too, and lots of copies of each book:
Beyond Magenta was a PR disaster for Asda in June 2020 when it was included in a schools RSE pack they sponsored along with materials promoting “love has no age” which is used to excuse paedophilia. Beyond Magenta includes a first-person account of a six-year-old child performing oral sex on adult men that is presented as a positive experience for the child.
Nothing Ever Happens Here about a girl’s struggle to deal with her father coming out as transgender. Apparently ‘Readers will empathize with Izzy and her struggles and will enjoy watching her realize that Danielle (the father) is still the same person she always was.’ The Children of Transitioners website takes a more critical view of this book.
Trans Teen Survival Guide gives advice on packers, binders, hormones and blockers
What’s the T? - one of 4 Juno Dawson titles stocked by Libraries West. Dawson is described on Wikipedia as “a British transgender activist”
If our libraries were just trying to help teens navigate adolescence and puberty there would be more than nine titles on the subject of menstruation, with just seventy books in stock. That’s five less than the seventy-five Juno Dawson books on trans issues alone and approximately two thirds less titles than the Juno Dawson catalogue.
And it’s not just the books that are a concern.
Libraries are enthusiastic supporters of Drag Queen Story Hour, an idea that started in the US and brings adult sex entertainers into our libraries to read to young children.
Many people – including many parents – seem entirely untroubled by this. Drag queens are just like pantomime dames, they think. It’s just a way to encourage children to read by making books fun, we’re told. But this isn’t true. Drag queens are like pantomime dames in the way that pantomimes are like night clubs. Only one is suitable for children. The other is a sexualised parody of women who is deliberately blurring the boundaries of men and women and bringing adult entertainment to children.
That blurring of children’s boundaries is a safeguarding red flag.
Because drag is so very popular, those who object are ignored, dismissed or called bigots. The claim is that these events are promoting LGBT acceptance, and what’s wrong with that? If you are against DQSH you must be homophobic (are drag queens gay?), transphobic (even though, by definition, drag queens are not transgender) and you don’t deserve to be heard.
Parents are not compelled to take their children to DQSH at their local library, of course, but when a school organises a “surprise visit” from a drag queen, as Tudor Primary School in Hemel Hempstead did, parents can’t remove their child. They can’t organise an objection to the visit either.
A teacher confirmed that the children were exposed to a highly sexualised individual and that there was no opportunity for parents to opt out.
And there’s a darker side. Aida H Dee has hit out at concerned parents with accusations of being “neo-nazi far-right groups” and set up a fundraiser for Mermaids, the charity that specialises in supporting children who want to transition.
The 100 libraries visited over the course of his Summer 2022 Tour – newly extended – do not appear to be concerned that the man they’ve invited to read to young children has such a close affiliation to the leading proponent of “transgender children” in the UK.
By contrast, Julie Bindel was due to speak about violence against women at Apsley library on 25th June. Julie Bindel is a journalist, an author and a life-long campaigner for women’s rights. She’s also a lesbian from a working-class background, so she pretty much ticks all the progressive boxes. But she’s not progressive enough for Nottingham libraries. Her talk was cancelled at the last minute because her “views on transgender rights are 'at odds' with the Council’s policy”.
This shutting out of women who don’t embrace gender ideology extends to the women writing to the council to complain about their decision. Sarah Phillimore wrote to ask which specific views were the problem, and was not impressed to receive a reply saying, “Another one for a standard reply”.
This administrative error is hugely revealing. Not only does it demonstrate that concerns are not being taken seriously, but also that there are enough of them for “a standard reply” to have been drafted.
We all pay for our library service, and we all pay for the events they put on.
The Family Education Trust has been looking at the materials used in schools and at Drag Queen Story Hour, and they found that Chester and Cheshire spent £300,000 on DQSH.
Funding to provide the services in this project is provided by the Welcome Back Fund (WBF). WBF is managed by Her Majesty’s Government and is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.
The project is receiving more than £300,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.
This is a huge sum when libraries are pleading poverty or even closing due to lack of money. Its use to keep libraries open as learning and meeting centres, to provide internet access for those who can’t afford it and as a knowledge hub could be justified. Drag Queens reading to small children does not fulfil that remit.
The Family Education Trust says :
We consider the sexualisation of young children in the name of inclusivity to be wholly wrong – and this is an inappropriate use of government funds intended to support local communities and businesses.
Libraries belong to all of us. They are paid for by all of us. We all have the right to expect that children’s books are age appropriate and scientifically accurate. We do not expect any ideology to be unthinkingly promoted, or those with the “wrong” opinions to be shut down.