Queer Theory, which nearly all of the gender and sexuality education in America is ultimately based upon, has nothing to do with “LGBT” education. This is evident to anyone who reads it, not only because its goals are diametrically opposed to LGBT acceptance and normalization in our society, but because they say so themselves very specifically over and over again. For one example, quoting Emily Drabinski, the openly politically Queer and Marxist current president of the American Library Association, from her 2013 paper “Queering the Catalog,” “Queer theory is distinct from lesbian and gay studies.” It could hardly be more blunt. She adds, “where lesbian and gay studies takes gender and sexual identities as its object of study, queer theory is interested in how those identities come discursively and socially into being and the kind of work they do in the world.” Her conclusion? “Lesbian and gay studies is concerned with what homosexuality is. Queer theory is concerned with what homosexuality does.”
What does Drabinski mean about “the kind of work they do in the world” when referring to “queer identities” and what they “do in the world”? She means activism. Nothing more and nothing less.
“Queer” is not an identity like gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It is by definition an explicitly and intentionally activist identity. That is, it is a political stance, not a fact of who someone is—in fact, not an identity at all. Again, this is by definition in Queer Theory. As David Halperin defined it in his 1995 book Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography, a few pages away from a rousing discussion of the transformative potential of “anal fisting” as an ideal sex act,
Unlike gay identity, which, though deliberately proclaimed in an act of affirmation, is nonetheless rooted in the positive fact of homosexual object-choice, queer identity need not be grounded in any positive truth or in any stable reality. As the very word implies, “queer” does not name some natural kind or refer to some determinate object; it acquires its meaning from its oppositional relation to the norm. Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence.
Halperin takes great pains to distinguish homosexual being from political homosexual doing and insists that the latter is all of and exactly what Michel Foucault meant by the term “the homosexual,” which he often employed. As he explains, “[Queerness] can now be constituted not substantively but oppositionally, not by what it is but by where it is and how it operates. Those who knowingly occupy such a marginal location, who assume a de-essentialized identity that is purely positional in character, are properly speaking not gay but queer.” Drabinski obviously drew upon this view to form her own.
And what is it Queer Theory does? It disrupts. By definition. The definition of “Queer” in Queer Theory, as we see, is that which resists and challenges all norms and expectations of normalcy. So bringing into education materials based in Queer Theory, including so-called gender-critical perspectives that separate sex and gender as though they are completely different phenomena, is meant to make children activists in this disruptive, destabilizing mode of misunderstanding the world. That has no place in our educational institutions, especially when it’s happening outside of parental knowledge and approval.
Think I’m exaggerating? Here is what the educational paper “Drag Pedagogy,” arguing for Drag Queen Story Hours in schools, says about the matter: “Ultimately, the authors propose that ‘drag pedagogy’ provides a performative approach to queer pedagogy that is not simply about LGBT lives, but living queerly.” Those italics are in the original. The authors elaborate upon this notion of “living queerly” by stating,
It may be that DQSH is “family friendly,” in the sense that it is accessible and inviting to families with children, but it is less a sanitizing force than it is a preparatory introduction to alternate modes of kinship. Here, DQSH is “family friendly” in the sense of “family” as an old-school queer code to identify and connect with other queers on the street.
In my professional work, I have struggled to find a word more adequate than the officially disallowed word “grooming” to describe “a preparatory introduction to alternate modes of kinship” based around “living queerly.” These unacceptable projects, hidden behind a street-slang pun, are core objectives of Queer Theory in education, described unambiguously in their own words. “As an art form,” they tell us, “drag is all about bending and breaking the rules, and so its aims are totally different from a normative classroom.” Because, they insist, “In a broader context, fostering collective unruliness also helps children to understand that they can have a hand in changing their environment.” This, they also tell us, allows both drag performers and children to “recognize the arbitrariness of rules,” engage in “queer play,” and “feel [their] fantasies.”
Queer educators damn themselves with their own words, so I’ll quote one more to illustrate one more core, often-repeated goal of Queer Theory in education. As explained by Hannah Dyer, a Canadian researcher, in a paper titled “Queer Futurity and Childhood Innocence,” the innocence of childhood and the established understanding of child developmental psychology all needs to be Queered. She writes, “Here, I help to illustrate how some of the affective, libidinal, epistemological, and political insistences on childhood innocence can injure the child’s development and offer a new mode of analytical inquiry that insists upon embracing the child’s queer curiosity and patterns of growth.” What is that about? This paper is specifically about and contains a section heading on “Queering the child’s innocence,” which is perfectly in line with what the “drag pedagogy” people want. Queer Theory in education is therefore so destructive that it aims to rewrite the innocence of childhood as an evil that prevents children from developing “queer curiosity and patterns of growth.”
None of this is remotely appropriate, and the inherently activist position it takes and seeks to instill into our children (through damaging them) is in many respects the least of its problems. It is, at the least, deranged, though it is more properly cultic and evil. It is far past time to give these damaging materials and the people pushing them into our schools the benefit of the doubt. It is long past time to say “no more, not any of it; it all has to go.”