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The ‘Family Friendly’ Trap

Written by: Emma Thomas

This week I visited my local library and was pleased to see a group of mothers and toddlers enjoying a children’s session. Older women were reading books and leading renditions of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’. Having spent the summer worrying about drag queen Aida H Dee’s tour of UK libraries it was good to see the normal children’s sessions happening.

Delighted kiddies clapped and sang while their mums smiled and relaxed. I was reminded of something that Maya Forstater had recently written about the experience of mothers of early years children:

Library programmes are one of the first outside things parents engage in with their children. Education involves slowly growing independence. Parents protect their children, and institutions must work with parents.

Forstater is talking primarily about a new library character, Tala the non-binary alien, which we discussed recently:

However, her point is also about mothers of young babies and how they can be exploited by queer theorists who want access to their children.

Recent years have seen a rise in events such as disco sessions for toddlers in nightclubs, music festivals with children’s areas etc., all marketed as trendy and modern and often a lot of fun. Where parents can find themselves in a quagmire is when Queer Theory is mixed into the event. It’s important to remember that the point of Queer Theory is not to promote equal rights for LGB people but to erase the idea of ‘normal’, and that includes the idea that it is normal to have a family that is gay or straight. Queer theory, aimed at abolishing families altogether, is the most family unfriendly idea of all.

For example, the National Theatre in London held a festival of drag this summer. On an open stage, at a festival billed as ‘live music and family fun’, a drag queen told the audience: ‘We need to teach our children to open their hearts, teach our children to open their minds and teach our children to open their legs.’ As one attendee said: ‘It felt inappropriate. Sunny, early evening lots of young families with children running about and then loud, overtly sexualised drag costumes and performances.

Mothers are frightened for their children

Women who challenge the idea of Drag Queen Story Hour can expect accusations of ‘pearl clutching’ to undermine their concerns and make them appear out-of-touch.

And Louise Perry recently noted in The Spectator:

There is a prissy middle-aged character in The Simpsons whose catchphrase is: ‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?’ The character is meant to poke fun at the kind of womanly concerns that show’s writers think over the top and histrionic. But the question is now a very serious one. That female constituent who approached her MP, desperate to know how to protect her kids, was only asking what women across the country are beginning to ask.

In the US a recent speech by Brittany Meyer, a California mother, at a meeting of the Encinitas Union School District board, went viral. Meyer is speaking against a ‘family friendly’ Halloween drag event being promoted for children, sponsored by a genital reassignment surgery centre and a 21+ gay nightclub. She says:

I just want to know what makes a drag show “family friendly”. Because if you follow it to its ‘family-friendly’ conclusion you can slap the title on anything. You can have family friendly gentlemen clubs, family friendly strip shows, family friendly 50 shades of grey read alouds. Will you approve my flier if I want to host an "all the sex secrets of the Kama Sutra" for kids and families if it's family friendly?

What is it about a grown man – and I honestly and sincerely as a woman mean this – what is it about a grown man costumed in a sparkly bra with augmented boobs busting out a leather miniskirt barely covering his twerking ass, with tuck tape on his front, while spreading his fishnetted legs as he writhes on the ground, grinding his groin next to a minor. ‘Family friendly’?

The event is organised by a group which provides support for parents seeking to transition their children, offering help such as organising hysterectomies on medical insurance, school-based support groups, and a program providing ‘binders, gaffs, packers, bras, StPs [Stand to Pee prosthetics] makeup and other gender affirming items’ for ‘trans youth’.

The agenda couldn’t be more obvious, particularly given the alliance here between an organisation dedicated to ‘trans youth’ and sponsorship from a surgical centre specialising in trans surgery. Yet another example of events that claim to be ‘family friendly’ but in reality are anything but.

From the conclusion of an academic paper on Drag Pedagogy (we wrote more about it here), we know that Queer Theory is deliberately playing fast and loose with the meaning of ‘family friendly’ exactly as Brittany Meyer was suggesting:

It may be that DQSH is “family friendly,” in the sense that it is accessible and inviting to families with children, but it is less a sanitizing force than it is a preparatory introduction to alternate modes of kinship. Here, DQSH is “family friendly” in the sense of “family” as an old-school queer code to identify and connect with other queers on the street.

Families are undermined in the UK too

In April 2022 in the UK, the Arts Council came under fire for financing a ‘Family Sex Show’ for children as young as five. The show was cancelled in Bristol and Norwich after protests from parents. Topics would, unsurprisingly, cover ‘gender’ and ‘queerness’.

Material at the Family Sex Show was certainly explicit, and objectively inappropriate for young children:

The Family Sex Show included words like ‘Pegging’ in its glossary, as well as ‘Play Parties’. Sadly, these aren’t the parties with a Frozen-themed cake, but ‘BDSM gatherings where people can meet and get involved in sexual activities’. The Family Sex Show also encouraged people to search for sexual terms online, including examples of ‘animal masturbation’ that children could draw.

Safeguarding is not prudish

Social media pressures parents not to be ‘prudes’. If you want to see an example of how invested in Queer Theory some people are, have a look at the people who viciously mocked Maya for days just for raising concerns about introducing five-year-olds to the idea that someone can be neither male or female.

Destabilising the family is a tactic that can pay off for predators. Online, vulnerable young people are spoken to directly by Internet celebrities about leaving their families if they don’t support their gender identities. We are your family now, they say.

Jeffrey Marsh, a ‘non-binary internet star’, refers to himself as an ‘Internet mom’. He tells children, “If you need a family, you can be in my family” and encourages them to be angry and resentful towards their parents:

And how about trans cyclist Rachel McKinnon, now ‘Veronica Ivy’, telling children

I want you to know that’s it’s ok to walk away from unsupportive or disrespectful or even abusive parents. And I want to give you hope that you can find what we call your glitter family. Your queer family. We are out there. …

...And the relationships we make in our glitter families are just as real, just as meaningful as our blood families. Also, you can reach out to me. You can email me. You can call me. We can Skype. I’m happy to talk if you need someone to talk to.

McKinnon/Ivy’s life partner, Danny Shawn Daugherty, was later arrested for soliciting a minor and disseminating obscene material to someone under 18.

How many children are lured away in search of their ‘glitter family’? Only this week another story emerged of a 14-year-old trans-identified girl who was sexually abused by predators she had met online.

The answer, obviously, isn’t to stop your child attending any events, but to research these things first and avoid the ones with an agenda. There is no harm in turning down the odd invitation to prevent your child being exposed to inappropriate and destabilising material. But equally we need to be aware of the agenda behind some of these events and be ready not just to complain but to demand better.

Let’s make councillors and MPs answer to the poor quality of provision for parents of early years children. It’s time to ask the Arts Council why it funds so many family-unfriendly events aimed at children. We deserve, at the very least, a little friendliness.



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