SAN FRANCISCO ( Associated Press) – Protesters protest outside a New York library as Flame, a drag queen in a shiny wig and red dress, entertains children inside, singing ABC, letting them color and read stories. It helps what it is to be different.
On the outskirts of Chicago, protesters harass parents who participate in similar storytelling events with their children, declaring that staff at the venue “come from the devil.”
And in a suburb of San Francisco, several men interrupt a reading at the library by drag queen Sweet Panda, shouting homophobic and transphobic adjectives.
After focusing on athletes and transgender minors, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is now targeting children’s reading incidents by drag queens — aimed at educating and entertaining children by stimulating the imagination — reported in the United States. through disruptions and other protests. Two weeks after the start of LGBTQ Pride Month.
Organizers of reading events say multiple social media accounts are promoting bullying and that protesters, who say they want to protect children, are actually putting them in danger. Organizers say they will tighten security, but will not stop their events.
Book groups have faced pushback from the start, but recent developments are somewhat new, said Jonathan Hamilton, executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour and co-founder of its New York affiliate.
“Being part of the LGBTQ community and being a weirdo in general, we’ve always experienced hatred and homosexuality and transphobia. It’s an unfortunate part of our existence,” Hamilton said. “It all feels different and very real and feels more frightening.”
Drag Queen Story Hour, a non-profit organization, started in San Francisco in 2015 thanks to activist and author Michelle T. Similar representations have since been opened in the United States and elsewhere. Other organizations have also been formed with drag queens.
As part of the Drag Queen Story Hour programming, Drag Queen teaches children and their parents at libraries, bookstores, fairs, parks and other public places to celebrate reading “through the glamorous art of drag”. Huh.
Four years ago, when the San Lorenzo Library, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco, held its first Drag Queen Story Hour, many people prayed in the street in protest, librarian Cindy Chadwick said. remembered.
Last weekend, when the library held its second such event, at least five men – wearing T-shirts depicting a gun and the words “Kill the local child molester” – came in and attacked Panda. started shouting insults. As dulce she read to children and their parents, Chadwick said.
“The terrible irony of all this is that they were saying over and over, ‘We’re here to protect the kids,’ and they were terrorizing the kids. The kids were scared of them and the kids were with their parents. who brought him to the program,” Chadwick said.
A county sheriff’s spokesman said the men, who identified themselves as members of the far-right organization Proud Boys, are residents of the San Francisco area. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
The Alameda County library, which has been receiving constant threats, now plans to hold an LGBTQ pride event once a month for the rest of the year, Chadwick said, and the sheriff’s department will provide security.
Chadwick said the library incident was mentioned in a far-right Twitter account that, along with other social media accounts, portrayed drag queens as vicious and abusive people who sexually abuse children. Want to build trustworthy relationship with them. , The same account featured a promo for an LGBTQ pride event in Waukegan, Illinois, which featured drag queens telling children’s stories and dressed-up clothing.
This resulted in dozens of angry calls and messages, said Nikki Mitchell, executive director of the LGBTQ+ Center Lake County, a nonprofit that organized the event.
Mitchell said the protesters disrupted the program and tried to record the children and shouted at the parents.
In Mahwah, New Jersey, a flyer posted online and left at the door and lobby depicting a drag queen as “a famous pornographer” who “normalises walking and child abuse.”
Susan Steinberg, director of the nonprofit, said critics called on local government offices and the Mahwah LGBTQ Pride Coalition to attempt to suspend her reading program, but Angel Loriano, whose drag queen is named Honey Mary, opposed the protest. protested and showed up anyway to talk to the kids about cats, dogs and her dreams for the future.
The protest campaign – as intended – has some parents hesitant to bring their children to a place where they may be harassed, but Mitchell said it’s important to be visible.
“It would already be a bad show of faith if I didn’t have children of my own,” he said. “But, it scared me enough to talk to myself.”
Dawn Haider-Merkel, professor of political science at Haider-Merkel University, said that labeling LGBTQ people as dangerous to children uses a tactic used by anti-gay activists in the 1970s.
“The word used then was recruitment,” Hyder-Merkel recalled. “Now they have changed it to “grooms” (breeders). It is old wine in new bottle.
Randall Ballmer, historian of American religion at Dartmouth College, said this is the strategy conservative candidates are employing to persuade evangelical Christians to vote.
“The reading of the drag queens matches their fantasies that the children are going to be corrupted by the devil or strange ideas,” he said.
Several politicians have debated plans for legislation to ban drag queen shows for children or punish parents who bring them. Among them is Republican State Rep. Brian Slayton of Texas.
“Children don’t need to focus on sex or sexualization and we should let them grow up as kids and let them grow up when they get closer to adulthood,” he said in an interview.
Although many drag queens are known for performing risque and profane shows in nightclubs, Loriano and other storytellers create their own performances for them.
“People automatically assume that because we pull, we want to be female or that we want to have sex,” she said. “It’s a way to please people, to entertain, to make them smile.”
Swenson reported from New York.