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An upcoming children's reading session led by drag artist Tatta Tom has caused outrage across social media recently. It stands testament to how wonderful our lives must be.
In case you missed it, people recently got their knickers in a right twist over the fact that a drag artist going by the name of Tatta Tom was scheduled to read fairytales to children at the library in Esch. The backlash reached such feverish proportions that both the municipality of Esch and ten anti-discrimination organisations felt they had to issue statements in support of Tatta Tom.
And the vitriol truly was something to behold, even in the comments on RTL Today's own social channels (which, for the record, paled in comparison to outpourings seen elsewhere around the not so social internet).
Throwing relevance to the wind, one commentator decided somewhat inexplicably to ask when "P" for paedophilia would be added to the LGBTQIA+ acronym. Others, their righteous fury reaching biblical proportions, vilified parents who might so much as consider exposing their offspring to Tatta Tom (or 'that idiot of a man', as one particularly eloquent commentator poetically put it). Greater in number still were those who deemed the mere mention of sexuality in front of children unquestionably deprived. I assume exception is made, in the case of some, for explanations of whoredom.
Before we continue, let's step back and remind ourselves of what caused this unparalleled descent into fanatical puritanism. What Tatta Tom actually does during these sessions is dress up in a tasteful two-piece string bikini and invite the children to finger paint his body, then talks to them - in an age appropriate fashion - about same-sex lovemaking.
Oh wait wait, no, sorry, I seem mistakenly to have drawn a picture of the fever dream many of these critics appear to be having. While this is the image some seem insistent on peddling, in reality these sordid fantasies are concocted entirely in the deeply depraved minds of a small subset of outwardly conservative deviants.
No, what Tatta Tom actually does is dress up in gentle (as in very non-revealing; conservative, if you will) if highly colourful drag and read adapted children's fairly tales in an engaging fashion. Open to children ages 10 and up, Tatta Tom adapts classic stories to include LGBTQ elements as a means of normalising a lived experience for millions of people around the world, and foster acceptance of both self and others. He also answers any questions they may have in an age-appropriate manner.
We are talking here about a completely harmless event, which absolutely no-one is forced to attend, that seeks to promote reading, storytelling, compassion, and understanding. What has some reaching for their pitchforks seems to be that it's being held by a man with a glittery beard and traditionally feminine clothing. This outcry reminds me of the furore once caused by women daring to don trousers. The problem people once saw with women donning what amounts to two skinny skirts covering each leg individually, as opposed to one large one that wraps around both, was in part that it gave children the wrong idea.
Yet, many people seem unable to connect the historical dots and realise we’re stuck in a rerun of an old debate. The same mentality that once declared the concept of women wearing trousers, or voicing opinions, or doing pretty much anything apart from silent child rearing, so abhorrent, is now aimed at a new target - the LGBTQ+ community.
What Tatta Tom and his fellow performers are advocating for is that same level of understanding for a smaller community of LGBTQ people. To live, exist, be understood, respected, and feel as safe in their skin as anyone else.
Turning our children gay
Possibly my favourite argument from the aforementioned deviant conservatives is their belief that open displays of non-conformity, whether it's homosexuality or drag, will inevitably lead to increased homosexuality among children.
I find this positively fascinating. I've been exposed to plenty of non-conforming people and cultural expression, and even went to a family drag show on a holiday abroad as a child. Unrelated to the latter, my parents happen to have a photo of me as a 7-year-old boy wearing swim shorts and my mum's bra for a laugh.
Despite this, and despite the global elite's liberal agenda set at destroying western masculinity (according to some), I find myself inexplicably, irrevocably, straight and gender conformative.
It's almost as though sexual orientation isn't something we pick and choose. One can't help but wonder what's hiding in the mental closets of those who seem fiercely to believe that being in the vicinity of a drag artist, or hearing stories featuring homosexual characters, can fundamentally reshape their, or their children's, sexuality.
Emphasis on reading
With all of that said, I have to admit that I'm somewhat surprised to find myself writing this article. In part because I didn't really think it would be needed in Luxembourg, but then any cultural drama that arises in the US tends to move across to our little country as well, and in part because I'm actually rather un-woke.
I have very little patience for the endless race to be the holiest, most progressive, purest person in any room. I find the practice of unnecessarily listing your pronouns in e-mails to be unfathomably tedious. I have zero energy available for discussing whether gender is a construct. I hold endless opinions that would render me cancelled with a moment's notice. In fact, there's every chance I'll get cancelled for referring to Tatta Tom with a male pronoun above, which may be wrong.
What guides me in my principles is pretty simple: live and let live, and don't hide from hard truths. This particular case falls under the live and let live umbrella. I truly believe that some will benefit greatly from this sort of event. I think understanding each other better will, in the end, make us better people.
I also think that any event like this, which could spark a joy for reading and storytelling in children, is a force for good. Between TikTok, YouTube, Netflix, and endless computer games, the spoken or read story is facing a difficult time in the battle for attention among both young and old.
So, if Tatta Tom, with his fabulous glittery beard and knack for storytelling can drag kids out from their digital caves and reintroduce them to the joy of written or spoken fiction, then I say, more power to him.
On the bright side, the amount of time and energy we apparently have available to us for such banal debates is clear testament to how comfortable and well off we all must be.