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Drag Queen Brush Fire On The Cultural War Front

ByRobert Silverman
A cartoon image of Daniel Andrews in a fluffy pink coat, reading a book in a pink velvet chair.

The Author

Robert Silverman is the pen name of a journalist and academic with extensive Australian and international experience in teaching, researching and writing on politics and history.

A new brush fire has broken out on the cultural war front, this time over the plan by a suburban Melbourne council to have a drag queen read a story to children aged one to six in a local public library.  As invariably happens in these situations, anger and abuse have prevailed over rational discussion, with social media as the preferred weapon of choice all around. For or against, the politicians quickly jumped in. Daniel Andrews did not hesitate to let it be known where he stood, on the side of the council and the appearance by the drag queen.

This minor upheaval over an intrinsically important issue began when Monash City Council decided to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) by having a drag queen read a story to children aged one to six in the local library.  

The chosen queen, ‘Sam T,’ Samuel Thomson, describes himself on the Star Now website, under the heading of “ethnicities”, as being of “white/European descent.” He is a 2016 Bachelor of Music Theatre graduate from Federation University, which is based in Ballarat and has campuses spread across western Victoria.

The council’s decision led to vehement protests by local residents, culminating in shouting and abuse which forced the council to close down a meeting in late April and subsequently to call off the drag queen reading. The emphasise in the mainstream media (the Age and SBS to give two examples) was on the “Nazis” who forced the cancellation of the event. Dr Kaz Ross, who researches far-right extremism and conspiracy groups, said every time such an event is cancelled “you’re saying to the Nazis you’ve won.”

The evidence for what she and others were saying was the reported presence at the council meeting of Avi Yemini, United Australia Party candidate Matt Babet, Monica Smith, the founder of Reignite Democracy (self-described mission “to empower and unite Australians in actively maintaining our independence and collective unity”) as well as “supporters” of My Place (“putting unity back into community”).

Presumably, none of these individuals would like being called Nazis, any more than Moira Deeming appreciated the slur that she was a Nazi sympathiser because she attended a women’s rally gatecrashed by men in black giving the Nazi salute.

For the record, no one protesting at the council meeting could readily be identified as a Nazi. The protesters were certainly incensed at what was being decided against their wishes, but there were no flags or black uniforms, so how the media knew these people were Nazis, or sympathetic to Nazism, is for the media to explain. What they did look like was a cross-section of any suburban community, mums and dads, young and old and some very angry people abusing the councillors and council employees as paedophiles.

Drag queens have been performing across Australia for decades (for 30 years, for example, in the ‘Les Girls’ cabaret at the Carousel Club in Sydney). Edna Everage was the queen of drag queens and rose to global fame on this basis. Drag queens have long since been accepted as part of the culture: the problem on this occasion was not acceptance of drag queens as such but the scheduled appearance of one before children aged one to six in a public institution, in this case, the Oakleigh library.

(Pictured: Oakleigh Library. Source: Monash Public Library Service)

Sam T was only going to read from a book, chosen by the council, no doubt because of its multi-gender affirming qualities, but a man dressed up as the hyper-sexualised woman is surely a performance in itself. What the children, taken along by one or both of their parents would make of it, who would know? But this was a red line for the parents who turned up at the council meeting to protest.

The geographical area of the city of Monash includes Mt Waverley, Glen Waverley, Oakleigh and Mulgrave. One of its residents, Daniel Andrews, accused the protestors in parliament of racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, hate speech and violent threats and being out of step with the attitudes of “fair-minded decent Australians.”

If these protesters wanted to behave like “Floridians” then they should go to Florida, a variation on an old theme in Australia: in the 1950s, communists were told, ‘If you don’t like it here go back to Russia’ (not that many of them came from Russia).

What Andrews seems to have had in mind was the recent decision of the Florida State Board of Education to ban classroom “instruction” on gender identity and sexual orientation. Previously it was banned up to the 3rd grade, now it is prohibited through to the 12th grade. What Governor Ron DeSantis calls a move against “woke gender identity” is described by the LGBTQ community as an “assault on freedom,” similar to the battle lines being formed in Australia.

A diametrically opposed local view to what Andrews had to say was expressed by former champion basketball player Andrew Bogut who remarked on social media ‘Wow, in Oakleigh of all places! Where are my Hellas people?” For Bogut, the central issue was not diversity and equality but something else he did not define beyond “we all know what it is.”

There are many hidden issues here. Obviously, the protesters were genuinely incensed by what they saw as a threat to their children. They were hardly alone in this. Other events – about 10 across Australia – have had to be cancelled after protests by parents and parents in other countries are reacting the same way. They can’t all be Nazis and conspiracy theorists but these are the smears directed against them by politicians and the media. The Woodleigh School on the Mornington Peninsula had to cancel a performance by Frock Hudson and Dolly Diamond while Eltham Library had to go online with a planned drag queen event.

The City of Monash is the heartland of suburban Australia. Whatever Daniel Andrews thinks, whatever the mayor, the CEO and the councillors think, would most parents in these households agree to their schools and libraries being used as drag queen venues for their children? It does not seem likely.

Decisions being made over the heads of parents and undermining what they would see as their major role in life, providing for and protecting their children until they are young adults, are hardly new in Daniel Andrews’ Victoria.

They include his decision (‘his’ and government have become synonymous in Victoria) that a child of 16 could be vaccinated without their parents’ approval; by sex worker legislation which allows parents to entertain clients in the same house they are bringing up children; and by sexual identity legislation which decrees prosecution for anyone trying to talk anyone else out of gender transition. If Victorians knew of the content of these laws, which clearly they don’t because the media has mostly ignored them, many would surely be disturbed by them.

In the past three years, children have had their playgrounds and schools closed, to the considerable damage of their socialisation and education. Now the premier defends not the parents trying to protect their children but the drag queens who want access to their schools and libraries. There is no neutral ground. He turns suburban mums and dads into hate-filled racist bigots, the equivalent of Hillary Clinton’s ignorant, racist Trumpian “deplorables” out there in the sticks.

Three years ago the same abusive tactics were used against those Victorians who opposed lockdowns and mandatory ‘vaccination’ (the ‘vaccines’ that don’t actually vaccinate). The dissenters were to be denied entry into shopping centres and turned into social pariahs.

Andrews, defender of ‘community values’, turned Victorians against each other. He encouraged them to snitch on each other: he demanded compliance then and he wants it now, as applied to suburban parents who think children aged between one and six are far too young to be ‘entertained’ by drag queens.

These parents might not agree with the definitions of gender foisted upon them by politicians and the media. They are generally working people without much time left over at the end of the day to really think about these issues. They might refuse to call a single person ‘they’ and some of them might just be narrow-minded bigots but this does not necessarily equate with being homophobic or transphobic.

Leaving media assumptions about what and how they think aside, they seem to have no objection to drag queen performances as long as they are staged in the right place– cabarets, clubs and bars– not in schools and public libraries, and before adults, not before kinder or primary school children.

Let Andrews or Monash City Council organise a referendum so we have answers. Then the ‘community’ will have a clear path ahead as defined by the people themselves and not by opinionated politicians and the media. And let’s call ‘time’ on the abuse, name-calling and the virtue signalling that has taken the place of sensible, rational, polite debate in Victoria.

What is going on right now is not good for anyone, including drag queens likely to suffer the backlash effect from those angered by being called Nazis by politicians and the media for wanting to defend their children. They should not have to go to Florida to express their views.



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