January 13, 2023 - 11:44am

This year, someone at Tate looked at the gallery’s half-term programme and decided what was missing was a man wearing plastic tits and a wig reading stories to kids. And lo it came to pass that controversial drag act Seb Samuel, who performs under the name Aida H Dee in children’s libraries, was invited to read his self-published books at Britain’s largest public art gallery for ‘reading sessions‘. The organisation’s website beamed with pride about hosting Samuel, who was billed as an “ADHD, neurodivergent, queer hero of literature, theatre and children’s entertainment”.

But joy at the visitation of the drag queen is not universal. This week, three groups, Artists Against Propaganda (AXP), Transgender Trend (TT) and Safe Schools Alliance (SSA), teamed-up to launch a petition calling on the gallery to “stop targeting kids with gender propaganda”. The organisations listed social media posts by Samuel which they referred to as “safeguarding red flags” — including jokes about anal sex at orgies — arguing that had a teacher made similar comments online, they would be sacked. As an aside, an earlier petition launched on change.org was removed without warning; presumably child safeguarding is considered unsafe to the sensibilities of gender ideologues.

The groups also criticised Tate for publishing “I WANT TO SHOW YOU A BODY” — a guide for schools produced in partnership with the transgender lobby group, Gendered Intelligence. It would seem the gallery now considers promoting gender ideology as within its remit. The document is extraordinary; the lovechild of Butlerian queer theory and pretentious art wank presented as fact, with a side-helping of emotional blackmail.

It offers a list of dos and don’ts to help teachers on their journey to trans-allyship. “Don’t tell people they’re in the wrong toilets or changing rooms, they probably know more about their own gender than you do”; “Talk to your school about gender-neutral toilets”; “Assert that transgender women are women”; “Assert that non-binary people exist.”

But there are also more worrying claims made, such as there “is an extremely high rate of suicide amongst transgender children in schools” which can be “negated” by telling children that they are the opposite sex. Current NHS guidelines for supporting youngsters confused about their gender identity do not support blind affirmation of cross-sex identities. It’s dangerously misleading.

“Artists like us are silenced, deplatformed and cancelled for expressing the ‘wrong views’ on gender,” one member of AXP explained. “But to see Tate target children with those same unfounded ideas about gender takes this problem to another level.”

Tate proudly proclaims on its website that its aim is to become “a truly inclusive organisation with a workforce and audience as diverse as the communities we serve.” But staking their rainbow flag firmly on one side of the culture war means that they will never be inclusive, nor indeed relevant, to the majority of the public whose taxes fund the gallery’s continued existence. As the groups who wrote the petition conclude:

Listen up Tate: we are your public and we are here to tell you that inclusive means everybody. That includes the very many people in this country who don’t agree that gender ideology is the law and who don’t agree that children should be exposed to its thinking uncritically…you need to remember your duty to the safe-guarding of children and you need to get back to your mission: art.
- Artists Against Propaganda, Transgender Trend & Safe Schools Alliance

Update: Tate responded after publication of this story with the following statement:

“We do not programme artists in order to promote particular points of view, nor to reconcile differing points of view. Our galleries offer a broad programme and visitors have the freedom to choose which aspects of it they engage with.”

Josephine Bartosch is a freelance writer and assistant editor at The Critic.