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Drag story hour hosts, under attack, dig in their heels

SAN FRANCISCO – Protesters pray in front of a library in New York, while Flame, a drag queen wearing a bright wig and red dress, entertains the children inside by singing the alphabet, doing coloring activities and reading books about how good it is to be different.

Outside of Chicago, protesters harassed parents attending talks with their children and said the staff in charge of the event came “from the devil.”

And on the outskirts of San Francisco, men break into Panda Dulce’s reading of The Queen’s Story Hour at the library, shouting homophobic and transphobic insults.

With a focus on transgender athletes and youth, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is now targeting times of storytelling – designed as a way to educate and entertain children by capturing their imagination – with breaks and other protests reported across the country in the last two weeks after Pride Month began.

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Organizers of the history classes say that social media accounts fuel the reaction and that opponents who say they want to protect children are actually scaring and threatening them. Organizers said they would step up security, but would not suspend their programs.

Reading groups have faced rejection from the beginning, but the recent vitriol is new, said Jonathan Hamilt, executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour and co-founder of the New York chapter.

“As part of the LGBT community and a strange person in general, we have always experienced hatred and insults, homophobia and transphobia. “Unfortunately, that’s only part of our existence,” Hamilt said. “It all feels different and very real and it’s a little scarier.”

Drag Queen Story Hour, a non-profit organization, was launched in San Francisco in 2015 by activist and author Michelle Thea. Since then, chapters have opened up in the United States and elsewhere. Other organizations have emerged whose readers are dear.

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As part of the Drag Queen Story Hour program, drag queens read to children and their parents in libraries, bookstores, fairs, parks and other public places to celebrate reading “through the glamorous art of dragging.”

When the library in San Lorenzo, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco, held its first hour in the history of the drag queen four years ago, people were praying across the street in protest, the Alameda County librarian said. Cindy Chadwick.

Last weekend, when the library hosted its second such event, at least five men – one with a T-shirt showing a rifle and the words “Kill your local pedophile” – came in and started insulting Panda Dulce as she read on children and their parents, Chadwick said.

“The terrible irony of this was that they kept saying, ‘We’re here to protect the children.’ And they were the children who were terrified.” The children were afraid of them and the children were there with their parents, who had brought them to this event, “Chadwick said.

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A spokesman for the county sheriff’s office said the men, who identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys, were all residents of the Bay Area. The episode is being investigated as a hate crime.

The Alameda County Library, which continues to receive threats, now plans to host a Pride event every month until the end of the year, Chadwick said, and the sheriff’s office will provide security.

The library event was mentioned in the right-wing Twitter account, which, along with other social accounts, portrays drag queens as abusive, perverted “thugs,” Chadwick said. The same account shared a promotion for “Kiddie Korner” at a Pride event in Waukegan, Illinois, which was to include a storyteller and a trash can.

That led to dozens of angry calls and messages, said Niki Michele, executive director of the LGBTQ + Center Lake County, which runs the event.

“A lot of, you are cosmetics, stop taking care of children, cosmetics, cosmetics, cosmetics, you are a pedophile,” said Michele.

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The event was interrupted by protesters who tried to take pictures of children and shouted at their parents, Michele said.

In Maua, New Jersey, a leaflet distributed online and left on the doorsteps and foyers of apartments misrepresented a drag artist as a “famous PORNOGRAPHER” who “normalizes PEDOPHILIA AND CHILD ABUSE.”

The unfortunates called local government agencies and the Mahwah Pride Coalition in an attempt to shut down the event, which is happening in history, said Susan Steinberg, director of the non-profit organization. But Angel Lauriano, who plays Honey Marie, endured the protests and appeared on Monday – long-sleeved – to talk to the children about cats, dogs and their dreams in life.

The protest campaign – as planned – gives some parents a break to bring their children to a place where they may be bullied. But Michele said it was important to be visible.

“It would be a bad show of faith if my own children weren’t even there,” Michele said. “But I want to say that it scared me enough that I had this conversation with myself.

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The portrayal of LGBTQ people as endangered children is based on the same book that anti-gay crusaders used in the 1970s, said Don Haider-Markel, a professor of political science at the University of Kansas.

“The term they used at the time was recruitment,” Haider-Markel said. “Now they’ve just switched to groomers. This is old wine in a new bottle. ”

This is a strategy conservative candidates are using to motivate white evangelical Christians to vote, according to Randall Ballmer, a Dartmouth American historian of American religion.

“The hour of the drag queen’s story plays right in their fears that children will be misled by evil, satanic or alien ideas,” Ballmer said.

Several politicians have discussed plans for legislation to ban drag shows for children or punish parents for taking their children together. Among them is Texas Republican Brian Slayton.

“Children should not focus on sex and sexualization, and we should let them grow up as children and let them do that when they approach an adult,” he said in an interview.

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While many drag queens are known for their risky and obscene appearances in nightclubs, Lauriano and others who read to children have adapted these performances to be suitable for children.

“People automatically assume that we are slipping, we want to become women or we want to be sexualized,” he said. “It’s a way to make people feel happy. This is for fun. It’s about making people smile. “

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Swenson reported from New York.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Drag story hour hosts, under attack, dig in their heels

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