Having drag queens read books to kids at local libraries is a very San Francisco idea, and indeed Drag Queen Story Time was born in SF in 2015, and has since caught on all over the country, first in New York and Los Angeles, and now in smaller towns and cities like Cookeville, Tennessee and Juneau, Alaska.
Now that the concept has spread, it's stirred conservative backlash, of course — because we are nothing if not a nation of pearl-clutching bigots who elected an open philanderer and sometimes Nazi sympathizer to the presidency, but can't stand the idea of a man in a dress reading stories to children.
There was backlash brewing already back in 2017 when SFist covered some brouhaha in the conservative media over the San Francisco Public Library's participation. A lot of the backlash ends up citing "taxpayer dollars" as reason for the objections, but the SFPL told us at the time that no taxpayer funds were used for the events — they were paid for by the nonprofit Friends of San Francisco Public Library.
"I guess the backlash is growing because it is getting more popular," says Jonathan Hamilt, co-founder of the New York-based Drag Queen Story Hour, speaking to the New York Times.
Larry Householder, the speaker of the Ohio State House, took aim at Drag Queen Story Time and the Ohio Library Council last week. Insultingly, and not only because no teenage boys are sitting around libraries getting read to, Householder wrote, "I can also assure you the taxpayers aren’t interested in seeing their hard-earned dollars being used to teach teenage boys how to become drag queens."
There was even a protest of a drag story hour in recent weeks in Brooklyn, as Gothamist reported.
The Drag Queen Story Hour nonprofit now has 35 chapters around the country, as Hamilt tells the Times. A Cookeville, Tennessee story hour was pretty low-key when it first happened in December, but then was met with 200 protesters who stormed the library when it happened again — and the event currently has no home after a private event space that hosted was sent death threats. In Houston, a similar event that wasn't affiliated with the nonprofit was met with death threats and had to disband.
Edie Pasek, a Milwaukee-based mom and story hour organizer, tells the Times that her events have been "protested like the Dickens," but "We want to teach the kids acceptance, not bullying, learning to make good choices, how to be nice to other people." Hilariously, Pasek adds, "In the Midwest, we do drag in churches. Let me tell you, people really love cats and drag."
Photo: Fabian Chevarria via Facebook