A fairy tale gone wrong: social media, recursive hate and the politicisation of Drag Queen Storytime

Dr Justin Ellis1

1University Of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

Controversy over Drag Queen Storytime (DQS) childhood literacy events in many Western liberal democracies between 2018 and 2020 has occurred within a broader rise in reported ‘hate crime’, notable in the United States and in England and Wales. Outrage from conservative US Christian anti-LGBTQ hate groups and activists, and far-right groups, has included online bias-motivated harassment, and in-person bias-motivated harassment, alleged assault and property damage. This article analyses news media and public discourse on hateful conduct against DQS events in the United States and related conduct in the UK and Australia. This hateful conduct draws on legacies of the criminalisation and pathologisation of same-sex attraction, and the framing of non-conforming gender identities as ‘deceptive’. The findings emphasise the recursive nature of bias-motivated hateful conduct based on medico-legal and pseudo-scientific stigmatisation of same-sex attraction and gender fluidity, and the amplificatory capacity of social media networks to engender hateful conduct. The article analyses the broader implications of hateful conduct given the limits of the criminal law in the United States (and other Western liberal democracies such as the UK and Australia) in addressing the translation of online hate speech into bias-motivated in-person hateful conduct. In the United States, these limits are often defined through the unqualified invocation of freedom of speech protections. The article applies ‘digiqueer’ criminology as a frame to consider the harms of bigotry against LGBTQ people amplified through digital media technologies and their intersection, particularly in the US, with Christian righteousness and right-wing ideology through a ‘hate feedback loop’


Dr Justin Ellis is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His research examines the impact of digital media technologies on trust in public institutions. His current focus is the scrutiny of public order policing through sousveillance within the LGBTQ community in Sydney. His broader research focus is on the impact of digital technologies on institutional accountability and responsible government. Justin is the editor-in-chief of Current Issues in Criminal Justice, the journal of the Sydney Institute of Criminology.


Dec 08 2021