It’s funny how things go: when a Timaru woman launched a petition in an attempt to stop a drag duo from reading to children at the public library, she likely hoped her dissent would see the matter squashed. Instead, the library was forced to add a second date.
It’s a lovely outcome, if surprising.
Despite how much we love to tout our ‘progressivism’ (first in the world to give women the vote, nuclear-free since 1987, stellar response to Covid-19) I still find New Zealand a reactionary, easily scare-mongered country. Take a dive into the comments section under any random news article, for instance.
Recently, while driving around West Auckland, I saw a political hoarding (for a smaller party that I won’t name) claiming: NO GENDER IDEOLOGY. It took me a while to even register what that meant: for a second or two, I thought they were of the far-left “abolish gender” persuasion.
Then, I realised.
To a lot of people, gender is a scary concept. Stepping outside of the clearly delineated lines is treacherous. Blue is for boys. Skirts and makeup and sparkly pink nail polish is for girls. Reaching outside of those boxes is indecent, unnatural, frightening, ‘adult’.
Introducing any of this to children, in the eyes of so-called ‘Middle New Zealand’ is borderline child abuse. Never mind the fact there’s nothing ‘indecent’ about gender in and of itself. The rising popularity of infant ‘gender reveals’ is testament to that. But watch a parent call a child by their preferred pronoun and just wait for the outcry: can’t you just let children be innocent!?
Naturally, when I came upon the NO GENDER IDEOLOGY political hoarding, some options ran through my mind. I could graffiti the thing. I could, in the middle of the night, spray those big block letters in midnight black. Or I could steal it. Break up the GIB board and use it for kindling.
Before you run to turn me in, I didn’t do any of that. I’m far too chicken, and I knew they would only bring more attention to the dumb thing. Instead, I turned to Google.
According to the party’s website (here, if you really want to read) they wish to ‘continue to recognise two biological genders’, ‘withdraw funding for any form of reassignment surgery’ and, crucially, ‘remove the teaching of gender ideology from all education programmes, including Mates & Dates.’
Mates & Dates is an ACC initiative set to teach high school students about relationships based on respect, negotiation, and consent. The programme aims to prevent sexual and dating violence.
I know a lot of people who would have benefitted from a programme like that. I know I would have. I also know a lot of people who would have benefitted from a Rainbow-Drag story-time session at the library. I include myself in that one, too.
Suggesting that drag, in and of itself, is "indecent" harkens back to the reactionary belief that anything gay people engage in is "seedy". Particularly gay men. Anyone who believes that a drag performance for children (in a library, for heaven's sake) would include the exact same material as a drag performance in a bar, is deluded. They are letting their ignorance guide them, as well as their fear.
As a queer person who grew up in a religious, vaguely conservative household, I spent much of my adolescence afraid. Afraid of my sexuality. Afraid of my religion. Afraid of my desires. Afraid of my capacity for love. The truth is, you can’t “protect” children from all things queer – you can only scare-monger.
The other option is to embrace. Should I have children, I know what I’ll be choosing.Support Villainesse