Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Outing the Past: LGBT History Festival

Taunton library are holding a LGBT History Festival on the 2nd February 2019. There will be a lot of events held during the day but one in particular has caused some fuss.

At some point there is going to be an appearance by Drag Queen Storytime, and some people haven't been happy about it.


This isn't an attempt to indoctrinate children using fairy tales. Maybe some of the stories will be alternatives to the ones you'd normally expect. Perhaps the Damsel in Distress or the Princess doesn't need the help of a knight in shining armour or Prince Charming because they are self confident and an ass kicking superwoman. Perhaps the tough as nails hero has a softer side to them.

If you aren't happy with that then try reading some of the original fairy tales, go and read some of the original Brothers Grimm stories and see how they really end. Not quite as happy ever after as you might think.

Children need to have their imaginations fed. They need to be taught that they can do anything5, be anything.

Girls can be powerful, boys can have a softer side, just like girls can be all sugar and spice and boys puppy dogs tails.

Fire a child's imagination and they will believe that they can be anything, if they couldn't then you wouldn't have male fashion designers and women engineers, people who are the top of their fields.

Telling a child a story isn't going to cause girls to want to be boys and vice versa. Telling them stories will help them to believe that anything is possible. And that's a world we really need right now. A world where our children can believe that they can do anything, even bring us back from the point of destroying the planet.

What if one of the children that attend a session like this is the one that comes up with an idea to combat global warming, or a way to stop us polluting the planet with plastic; a way that every human can get behind, or even stops world hunger. What if those children didn't believe that their idea wasn't possible because we stunted their imagination by telling them that it's wrong to listen to some people telling stories.

For most of the children attending an event like this, it will be a 5 minute wonder. They'll talk about it for a little while because it's different but then something else will come along to catch their attention. Others might talk about it for longer, maybe even remember it all their lives. One thing is for certain, for the parents of these children it will be something that they remember all their lives, and memories are precious because sometimes that's all you have left.

During Rhys' life he had amazing experiences. He got to fly in a helicopter and planes. He got to spend the best part of a day at Yeovilton Naval Air Station having a tour and flying the Lynx flight simulator. He even received flight wings afterwards.

He went skiing, visited Paris. Went to activity weeks in Ireland and made new friends.

Rhys was driven around Silverstone in a sports car, went to the World Snooker Championships and saw behind the scenes. He saw the British Grand Prix and had a tour of the Mercedes Petronas facility where they design, build and help race the Formula 1 cars.

He even got to meet Stormtroopers and handle owls.

Those are just some of the things he got to do, some of the things that Tracey and I have memories of.

None of those experiences influenced what he want to be in life. Rhys loved children, and children loved him. All he wanted to do was to work with children, whether as a childcare assistant or as a hospital Play Specialist.

What would his life have been like, or what memories would be have, if we'd told him that something he wanted to do was wrong, was dangerous, or he couldn't go somewhere without us.

It would be boring and sad, filled with sickness, hospitals and operations. We have enough of those memories anyway.

Memories of him crying in pain because an epidural had failed and the pain was unbearable for hours until the doctors were able to administer suitable pain relief.

Memories of him throwing up because he couldn't keep food down.

Memories of him lying in recovery rooms because he'd had surgery.

Memories of him undergoing treatment that he might not survive.

Memories of him having a seizure at 3am and sitting by his side, as fluid gushed out of his mouth, and I talked to him, telling him to hang on, telling him not to leave me, not to die.

Memories of those last few weeks in the hospice.

Memories of those last days when I prayed to God for a miracle. A miracle that never came.

Memories of him in his coffin at the funeral parlour.

Memories of his coffin, his funeral, the floral tributes.

People sharing their memories of him and how inspirational they had been to him.

So many memories that could define his life and how we see it, but all out weighed by the memories of all the good things, of the fun times. Of the love and laughter. Of seeing his eyes light up and his imagination burst out in all sorts of ways.

So when you worry that children are going to be influenced by the experience of hearing story time told by a Drag Queen, then think of what it would be like if, God forbid, you ever found yourself in the position of only having memories of your child and the things that they experienced in life.

For those parents who are in that position, memories are all they have, and it's the good ones you want to cling to.

So let the children enjoy an innocent time, listening to stories. Stories you can always sit down with them and read traditional versions of, or versions that suit your beliefs and attitudes afterwards.

And if they are not your children, well, let their parents decide what is right for them, not you, because it might just be that this is a memory that one of those parents might just end up having to cherish forever, because their child is no longer with them.

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