Children twerked on silver platforms a half-foot off the floor to warm up the crowd for drag queen Zamareyah Dawn, who — as Into: A Digital Magazine for the Modern Queer World reported — would read two books to an audience of kids during Drag Queen Story Hour at a public library in Mobile, Ala.
“This event represents opening the door to many other abhorrent behavioral lifestyles,” Woodridge Baptist Church Pastor Matt Morris said in Mobile, “which threatens to undermine the moral fiber of this country.”
Meanwhile, the Huntington Woods Library, in southeast Michigan, had been holding regular Drag Queen Story Time events for about a year when Allison Iversen decided she wanted them to stop.
Iversen, at the time a Huntington Woods city commissioner, explained to city youth library official Joyce Krom in a November email that children “are very naive and gullible at this age” and thus “it seems like the wrong way to teach this kind of acceptance.”
It wasn’t just the event itself that rankled Iversen. She complained Drag Queen Story Hour posters in the library forced her to “explain what ‘an unabashedly queer Drag Queen’” is to her two young children.
“For those of us with children of reading age, we can opt to not attend the event. But we can’t ‘opt out’ of our children reading the flyers lining the bookshelves,” Iversen added.
Iverson has been a lone wolf on this issue in Huntington Woods. She picked up no support from fellow Huntington Woods residents or city officials. But two family groups from out-of-state are ready to ride to her rescue.
Just the concept of Drag Queen Story Hour sends shivers up the spines of people in the groups Warriors for Christ and MassResistance. The DQSH website states, “Drag Queen Story Hour is just what it sounds like – drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores.”
And why is that a good idea? Again, the website explains, “DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.”
“In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real,” the website reads.
Michelle Tea put on the first Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Francisco Library in December 2015. Within six months, the idea spread up and down the east and west coasts.
The American Library Association quickly jumped on board to support Drag Queen Story Hours. On ALA’s website, the organization admits there has been “pushback from some members” of communities planning Drag Queen Story Hours.
And while the ALA said “decisions about programming are made at the local level and are based on individual library policy,” the organization also voiced its continued support for the events as part of a “commitment to combating marginalization and underrepresentation within the communities served by libraries through increased understanding of the effects of historical exclusion.”
A month later, the Detroit Free Press estimated 300 people attended a Huntington Woods City Commission meeting to show their support for the library’s Drag Queen Story Hour. Iverson wasn’t at the meeting.
Iverson had already submitted her resignation from the city commission via email. She had sold her house in Huntington Woods and was moving to another Michigan community, Lake Orion.
“I guess she didn’t want to show up against a crowd like this,” said City Commissioner Jeff Jenks.
But not everyone in the crowd supported the DQSH events. Even though she doesn’t live in Huntington Woods, Londa Gatt said she had no problem with the event itself. Gatt said she opposed DQSH events held in a public institution supported by tax dollars.
The Free Press reported the crowd responded to her remarks with “hoots and jeers.”
Hundreds in Huntington Woods may ridicule them, but Iverson and Gatt are not alone in this battle. Two groups, one from California, the other from Tennessee, promise to be in Huntington Woods to protest the next DQSH this month.
Arthur Schaper, the organizational director for MassResistance, said the Michigan chapter of the California-based pro-family group would set up a protest at the Jan. 26 DQSH event.
An article on the MassResistance website argued an ad for the December Drag Queen Story Hour, which quoted the DQSH mission statement, was another example of “queering the minds of children.”
And Rev. Rich Penkoski, the lead pastor of Warriors for Christ, which describes itself as a “pre-denominational ministry,” said he would bring a group north from Tennessee to demonstrate against the Drag Queen Story Hour just as the queens and kids are sitting down to read some books together.
Penkoski told the Free Press his church has marched against Drag Queen Story Hour events in Lafayette, La., and Mobile, Ala., where kids were twerking on stage.
“We’re going there specifically to try to protect children from being harmed from this drag queen story hour,” Penkoski said. “Let’s be honest; if you look at the titles of the stories that are being read, they’re all about gender fluidity and whatnot…. We believe, to indoctrinate children into the LGBT culture.”
However, Huntington Woods City Manager Amy Sullivan told the Free Press the DQSH program received more than enough community support to continue the event, and there were no plans to tell the drag queens to stay home.
“My hope is that the next generation of kids won’t see Drag Queen Story Time as anything unusual,” Krom said. “And they’ll just see people for who they are.”