Saskatchewan

Regina drag queen voices concerns about school board chair's comments

A Regina drag queen is disappointed with the chair of the Regina Public School Board after a comment the chair posted on Facebook last week that seemingly expressed concerns about Pride month events involving drag queens in schools. 

Jesse Ireland says he wished he could have had a similar program in his elementary school

Jesse Ireland, reading to children at Seven Stones Community School in Regina in drag as Adora Diamond, says the program helped students understand and connect with the LGBTQ community. (Submitted by Jesse Ireland )

A Regina drag queen is disappointed with the chair of the Regina Public School Board after a comment the chair posted on Facebook last week seemingly expressed concerns about Pride month events involving drag queens in schools

In the comment, Katherine Gagne defended the school board's decision to vote against a motion that would allow individual schools to decide how to best celebrate Pride month.

Gagne took to her Facebook profile on Wednesday where she defended the board of trustees and the vote. Gagne's comments about gender and drag queens were spurred by concerned parents, she said Thursday. (Facebook)

While doing so, she brought up the Drag Queen Story Hour, a Regina Pride Festival event that brings drag queens into elementary school classrooms to read to children.

"We can't have one school thinking a drag queen story time to kindergarten students is acceptable or a teacher telling a grade 3 student that they don't need to choose their gender yet is acceptable," Gagne wrote on Facebook last Wednesday.

Comment an 'educational opportunity:' Jesse Ireland 

Jesse Ireland, a drag queen who has taken part in the event a couple of times at a Regina elementary school, says it was "disappointing" to see the comment and that the board should do more to support students who have questions about the LGBTQ community and their own sexuality.

"It really is important for people in a leadership role and people with authority to always do their best, when given the opportunity, to develop proper systems and have that encouragement for the schools ... to have that information out there for the students," he said.

Jesse Ireland, co-chair of Regina Pride, helped organize a vigil in the city in response to the Orlando massacre. (CBC News)

He called the post an "educational opportunity" and encouraged educational leaders to get out to the schools to see the impact activities like the story hour have on kids. 

"They are hungry for knowledge," he said.

Ireland said the story hour event would have helped him to understand his identity when he was younger. 

"A lot of kids go through a lot of confusion ... learning who they are in the world," he said.

Board members confused by motion: Gagne 

Gagne told CBC on Thursday she had received concerned emails from parents about certain topics, such as gender and sexuality, being discussed in school rather than between a child and their parents. 

"I think that as a school board we can respect those conversations," Gagne said. "It wasn't, you know, to deny gender fluidity or anything like that."

Gagne said members of the board who voted against the motion did not have a chance to discuss the motion in advance, even though a notice of motion was introduced in June. Despite that, no discussion was had, Gagne said.

"I'm not even sure what the need for the motion was," Gagne said Thursday evening. "And I think the four trustees that voted against that was sort of what they were saying: 'we don't understand.'"

Ireland is hopeful Gagne will apologize for the comment, but also provide an explanation on what happens now that the motion was defeated. 

"We need to know why the vote was put down," he said. "What are they planning to do now to offer this support and the resources and the encouragement to these kids who need it?"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ethan Williams

Weather and climate journalist

Ethan Williams is a weather and climate reporter and presenter for CBC News in Saskatchewan, based in Regina. Catch CBC Saskatchewan News with Sam Maciag and Ethan Williams weeknights at 6 p.m. CST for your local news and weather. Get in touch with him: Ethan.Williams@cbc.ca

With files from Emily Pasiuk and Creeden Martell

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