What 'Drag Queen Story Time' teaches us about Dutch society

4 minutes to read
Saskia Peters

Nowadays, drag queens are using their drag identity to teach young kids about kindness and being yourself. A tolerant country like the Netherlands would support that idea, right? The reality might surprise you.

Drag queen story time

On Wednesday, October 3rd, a video from the NOS appeared in my Facebook timeline. It was about drag queens reading stories to children. The organisers of this story reading event, ‘Drag Queen Story Time’, describe its goal as “introducing children to diversity at a young age, while promoting acceptance”. Around 30 men in drag are travelling around and visiting British schools. The kids love the storytelling, and don’t seem to care that this is done by a drag queen.

It is interesting that the PVV didn’t sign the so-called ‘Regenboog Stembusakkoord’, which aims to improve emancipation of the LGBTQ+-community 

In the comments section below the Facebook post many critiques can be read. Two examples of what Facebook filtered as ‘most relevant’: “a boy is a boy and a girl is a girl. That’s how it will be and I will raise my kids like that” and: “This is child abuse, it’s outrageous that the NOS is promoting this. It’s sickening”. Not only do these people critique the event itself - introducing kids to queer culture (as they see it) - but the NOS gets critiqued as well, for their position regarding this topic and their sharing of the story.


Image of high tolerance

Over a long period of time, the Netherlands have created an image of being a tolerant country. Being the first in - for example - legalising gay marriage and euthanasia, in combination with having a multicultural society, a reputation of high tolerance was formed. So why are the responses to the video this negative?

According to Caroline de Gruyter, who is a European Affairs correspondent for NRC Handelsblad, the idea of the Netherlands being tolerant is mostly a label that is assigned to the country. Actions in legislation created the image of tolerance, but might not have reflected the opinion of the people. There have been many of them who did not agree with these decisions, but only now decide to speak up.


Fake tolerance

An example of these people sharing their voice can be seen when looking at recent elections; and especially with regards to the rising popularity of the PVV. This party is known for their anti-Islam program, and supporting Dutch values. Together with ChristenUnie and SGP they did not sign the so-called ‘Regenboog Stembusakkoord’, which aims to improve emancipation of the LGBTQ+ community - but also acknowledges family compositions such as two mothers and one father. 

It is interesting that the PVV didn’t sign the agreement. The party often (mis)uses the idea that equality for women and non-heterosexual people is a Dutch standard; and that not agreeing with it is a sign of bad integration. In reality, most of their voters have the same traditional values as the immigrants they are opposing. Their support for the LGBTQ+ community is used as a tool to attack immigrants and Islamic views.

However, signing and thus obeying the agreement is a bridge too far. In the end, it shows the reality of tolerance - not only of cultural or religious diversity, but also of gender diversity as opposed to e.g. traditional family compositions. 

Different country, same story?

The news about drag queens is not just being criticized in the Netherlands. In the US - where these events are called ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ - it led to controversy as well. In an attempt to cancel the event, flyers have been spread and protests occurred in front of the entrance of the building where the event took place. This is not too surprising, looking at Trump’s “attack” on LGBT rights


A flyer that was spread to prevent Drag Queen Story Hour from taking place

So despite drag culture having more nationwide exposure in the US compared to the Netherlands (with popular shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Netflix’ ‘Dancing Queen’ starring Justin Johnson/Alyssa Edwards), the idea of drag queens reading to children is still not widely accepted.

That is why Drag Queen Story Time shows us that the Netherlands are not as tolerant as we think.





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