Are We Trading Equality for Inequality?

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“I share the parental concern that an adult entertainer named after a sex act should attend a Scottish primary school.”

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 02/03/2020 [Online] Available: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/bans-will-result-in-equality-being-replaced-by-inequality/  [Accessed: 2020, Mar 03]

If ever a public row was going to kick off during LGBT history month, it was going to be over a Member of Parliament accompanying a drag queen called Flowjob to a primary school in Renfrewshire. Mhairi Black MP defended the event and dismissed concerns as “homophobic” but Education Secretary, John Swinney, questioned the decision and said parents have raised “understandable concerns”. Now, I must state that this is not a column about LGBT-inclusive education, which is a separate topic.

However, as a father of two primary schoolchildren, I share the parental concern that an adult entertainer named after a sex act and with an accessible pornographic social media profile is not an appropriate candidate to attend a primary school. I also object to claims that children observe drag queens at pantomime given that this school is in Ferguslie Park, which is home to two of Scotland’s ten most deprived datazones. A pantomime is simply out-of-reach for the majority of low income families in the area.

Until a fortnight ago, I knew nothing about Drag Queen Story Time, until I heard the first event of its kind took place in Dundee Central Library in July 2018. These events are generally held in libraries and public spaces across the United Kingdom and are an entirely opt-in and voluntary option for parents to educate their children on LGBT inclusion. Whilst a great deal has already been said about the event in Paisley, there is a perspective around equality in Scotland which, I feel, has been sorely overlooked.

Less than a month ago, only 15 minutes from Glencoats Primary School in Paisley, an event due to host American evangelist Franklin Graham at the SEC in Glasgow was cancelled by its principal shareholder, Glasgow City Council. Graham has previously expressed support for Donald Trump and concerns over LGBT issues. Council leader Susan Aitken dismissed claims this was an issue of free speech but said: “How [Mr Graham] expresses his views could breach the council’s statutory equalities duties.”

However, both Franklin Graham and his father, the late Billy Graham, have spoken in Scotland many times. The event organiser states their events proclaim the good news of “God’s love and forgiveness” and, having myself attended a Franklin Graham event in Perth in 1999, I think the decision to cancel the date in May is precisely an attempt to suppress free speech. The organiser has taken legal action against the council with support from 330 churches, forcing them to explain their decision.

When we are welcoming drag queens into our schools, which is a relatively new phenomenon, but banning people from preaching a message that has had a place in Scottish society for many centuries, I not do not see equality but rather inequality. Until our definition of equality has the elasticity to permit voices with whom we disagree, we must recognise we are not the defenders of equality but its oppressor.

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