Aida H Dee, the alter ego of 25-year-old drag performer Sab Samuel, runs Drag Queen Story Hour UK, a Cardiff-based business that specialises in interactive kids shows that feature drag performers.
On June 16 of this year, Aida H Dee and Edinburgh City Libraries hosted a ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ where Aida performed for the children and read stories over a live stream, as part of Edinburgh City Council’s celebration of Pride Month.
However, the council was contacted by a number of people who felt that a drag act would be inappropriate for the children, and some who left hateful and transphobic comments on social media.
A report, released under freedom of information legislation by the council, reads: “Thiswas a children’s event as was scheduled as part of Pride month. Our Children and Young Persons team had worked with Drag Queen Story hour for a good few weeks before the event and originally before lockdown, there was going to be a live event.
“After very negative publicity during World Book Day at a primary school in Renfrewshire, when they had a drag queen to read, who they had not checked and was an adult entertainer and had a very adult social media presence, we felt we had to be reassured that this would be a suitable organisation for us to have a relationship with.
“We got a few comments before the event, assuming that it would be inappropriate and was too adult.
“The event was well received but there was a hate element, who posted some vile and inappropriate comments which we had to remove. Unfortunately the performer has had threats of violence and has had to contact the police.”
According to Mr Samuel himself, many of the commenters misunderstood his act. He said: “Is dancing appropriate for children? They’re telling me drag queens aren’t appropriate for children, it’s such a lazy objection - not all dancing is appropriate for children, just as not all drag acts are appropriate for children.
“If people say it’s drag queens as a whole that are inappropriate for children, it’s not balanced, they’ve formed an opinion about all drag queens without knowing enough about the acts and the history of drag.
“All they need is a little bit of education about what drag queens do.
“Some people have asked me, why do I use dress up? The purpose of dressing up isn’t to teach them about LGBT, or sexuality, or anything like that - it’s for the purpose of teaching the children that dressing up is fun.
“The actual teaching of acceptance comes from the stories themselves. I choose stories that are modern day fables that are about accepting people for who they are.”
The report also mentioned a swell of support for the act, with 28 people contacting the council directly to speak positively about Drag Queen Story Hour, and hundreds commenting on social media.
The report continues: “Eighteen of the 28 were worried that negative feedback may prevent us from undertaking any more.
“At least two mentioned that it made them very proud of Edinburgh and its library service.”
There were also 557 direct engagements with the post through comments, shares and/orreactions, with 269 (95%) positive reactions, and 218 (91%) of the comments also being positive.
Mr Samuel added: “Drag is a cosplay of your own inner self, and that’s irrelevant to your gender. You get to cosplay a different version of yourself. You can be female and dress up as a drag queen, and that’s a very key point.
“As the enterprise grew we had lots of festival contracts. We had drag kings, and super queens, which are women dressed up. It is female empowerment.
“People are recognising that homophobia and transphobia are no longer cool, and people now have to go about their phobia in a roundabout way.”
Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Service