Protesters pray outdoors a library in New York Metropolis as Flame, a drag queen sporting a shiny wig and a purple robe, entertains the kids inside by singing the ABCs, main a coloring exercise and studying books about the way it’s OK to be totally different.
Outdoors Chicago, protesters harass mother and father attending storytime with their youngsters and proclaim that the employees working the occasion got here “from the satan.”
And in a San Francisco suburb, males invade Panda Dulce’s studying at a library’s Drag Queen Story Hour, shouting homophobic and transphobic slurs.
After specializing in transgender athletes and youths, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is now focusing on drag storytimes — conceived as a option to educate and entertain youngsters by interesting to their imaginations — with interruptions and different protests reported throughout the nation previously two weeks, since Satisfaction Month started.
Organizers of the story hours say that social media accounts are fueling the backlash and that opponents claiming they need to shield youngsters are literally scaring and endangering them. The organizers mentioned they are going to improve safety however received’t cease their packages.
The studying teams have confronted pushback from the start, however the current vitriol is new, mentioned Jonathan Hamilt, government director of Drag Queen Story Hour and the co-founder of the New York chapter.
“Being part of the LGBT group and a queer particular person on the whole, we’ve at all times skilled hate and slurs and homophobia and transphobia. That’s sadly simply a part of our existence,” Hamilt mentioned. “All this feels totally different and really actual, and it feels a bit scarier.”
Drag Queen Story Hour, a nonprofit, was began in San Francisco in 2015 by activist and creator Michelle Tea. Chapters have since opened throughout the U.S. and elsewhere. Different organizations with readers in drag have additionally shaped.
As a part of Drag Queen Story Hour’s programming, drag queens learn to youngsters and their mother and father at libraries, bookstores, festivals, parks and different public areas to have a good time studying “by the glamorous artwork of drag.”
When the library in San Lorenzo, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco, held its first Drag Queen Story Hour 4 years in the past, individuals prayed throughout the road in protest, mentioned Alameda County librarian Cindy Chadwick.
Final weekend, because the library hosted its second such occasion, a minimum of 5 males — certainly one of them sporting a T-shirt displaying a rifle and the phrases “Kill Your Native Pedophile” — walked in and started hurling insults at Panda Dulce as she learn to youngsters and their mother and father, Chadwick mentioned.
“The horrible irony of it was they mentioned time and again, ‘We’re right here to guard the children.’ And it was the children they had been terrifying. The youngsters had been afraid of them, and the children had been there with their mother and father who had introduced them to this occasion,” Chadwick mentioned.
A spokesperson for the county sheriff’s workplace mentioned the lads, who recognized themselves as members of the Proud Boys, are all residents of the Bay Space. The episode is being investigated as a hate crime.
The Alameda County Library, which continues to obtain threats, now plans to host a Satisfaction occasion every month for the remainder of the 12 months, Chadwick mentioned, and the sheriff’s workplace will present safety.
The library occasion was talked about on a right-wing Twitter account that, together with different social accounts, has framed drag queens as abusive, wicked “groomers,” Chadwick mentioned. The identical account shared a promotion for a “Kiddie Korner” at a Satisfaction occasion in Waukegan, Illinois, that was to incorporate a drag storyteller and dress-up bin.
It resulted in dozens of offended calls and messages, mentioned Nikki Michele, government director of the nonprofit LGBTQ+ Middle Lake County, which ran the occasion.
“Loads of, you’re a groomer, cease grooming youngsters, groomer, groomer, groomer, you’re a pedophile,” Michele mentioned.
The occasion was interrupted by protesters who tried to movie youngsters and yelled at their mother and father, Michele mentioned.
In Mahwah, New Jersey, a flyer disseminated on-line and left on doorsteps and in rental lobbies misrepresented a drag performer as a “identified PORNOGRAPHER” who “normalizes PEDOPHILIA AND ABUSE OF CHILDREN.”
Detractors referred to as native authorities workplaces and the Mahwah Satisfaction Coalition in makes an attempt to close down its storytime occasion, mentioned Susan Steinberg, the nonprofit’s director. However Angel Lauriano, who performs in drag as Honey Marie, weathered protesters and confirmed up anyway Monday — in lengthy sleeves — to speak to youngsters about cats, canine and their goals in life.
The protest marketing campaign — as meant — is giving some mother and father pause about bringing their youngsters to an area the place they might be harassed. However Michele mentioned it is essential to be seen.
“That may be a nasty present of religion if my very own youngsters weren’t even there,” Michele mentioned. “However I imply, it did scare me sufficient that I had that dialog with myself.”
Framing LGBTQ individuals as endangering youngsters builds on the identical playbook anti-gay crusaders used within the Nineteen Seventies, mentioned Don Haider-Markel, a College of Kansas political science professor.
“The time period they used at the moment was recruitment,” Haider-Markel mentioned. “Now they’ve simply switched that to groomers. It’s outdated wine in a brand new bottle.”
It’s a method conservative candidates are utilizing to encourage white evangelical Christians to vote, in accordance with Randall Balmer, a Dartmouth Faculty historian of American faith.
“The drag queen story hour performs proper into their fears that the kids are going to be led astray by evil or satanic or alien concepts,” Balmer mentioned.
A number of politicians have mentioned plans for laws to ban drag exhibits for teenagers or punish mother and father for taking their youngsters to at least one. Amongst them is Texas state Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Republican.
“Kids don’t must be centered on intercourse and sexualization, and we have to allow them to simply develop as much as be youngsters and allow them to try this as they’re getting nearer to being an grownup,” he mentioned in an interview.
Whereas many drag queens are identified for risqué and profane acts in nightclubs, Lauriano and others who learn to youngsters tailor these performances to be kid-friendly.
“Folks routinely assume as a result of we do drag, we need to turn out to be females or we need to be sexualized,” he mentioned. “It’s a option to make individuals really feel joyful. It’s to entertain. It’s to make individuals smile.”
Swenson reported from New York Metropolis.