Drag Queen Story Hour Comes to Cattle Country

(AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Steve Griffin, File)

If you have never heard of Vernal, Utah, you aren’t alone. Many people in the state don’t know where it is or have heard of it in passing. The town is situated in the northeast corner of the state, close to Wyoming and Colorado. Its prime economic drivers have been the oil and gas industries, but it is perhaps best known for dinosaurs. It is close to the Dinosaur National Monument, and dinosaurs are everywhere.  T-shirts, statues, books, toys, stickers — if you need a dinosaur-related product. chances are you can get it in Vernal. It is also a prime spot for anglers, hunters, and hikers due to its proximity to the Ashley National Forest and the Green River. And it is steeped in history. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid spent time around there. You can still find the house where they used to rest up in between jobs. You can still see the remains of settlers’ cabins by the road and, in more remote areas, petroglyphs, pictographs, and tipi rings from a distant past that all of a sudden doesn’t seem so distant.

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And it was cattle country. When I lived there people were still running cattle and sheep. You could get local grass-fed beef.. and it was not out of the ordinary during the spring for cattle drives to go past my house. It was hell on the edge of my lawn, but it was always kind of fun for a city boy to watch. It is home to a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo. The majority of the population is LDS. And Uintah County was and may still be the reddest county in one of the reddest states in the union. Vernal was my home for over 20 years. I started my radio show there and even started writing for Townhall there. I knew the people, and I knew the land. I drove much of it when I served as the fire warden for the state.  It’s still small-town, heavy on pickup trucks, Mexican restaurants, steak houses, and barbecue joints. And a couple of bars. The beauty of a small-town bar is that the bartender knows what you drink and has it waiting for you by the time you grab a stool. I’m not LDS, but almost everyone I knew was. I went to their funerals, the homecomings when their kids came back from missions, and their wedding receptions. It’s true that I butted heads once in a while with someone who was narrow-minded. I got yelled at a few times for a comment I made on the air, but for the most part people in Vernal were never hostile. Hell, they put up with me for all of those years I was a committed Democrat so that’s saying something.

I lived there longer than I lived in the city where  I grew up. In some ways, it’s more my hometown than any place on earth. So knowing Vernal as I do, I was more than slightly surprised to find out that there is a drag queen story hour slated for June 7 at the Uintah County Library. I read the story and thought, “Man, they’re gonna wreck their transmission shifting gears that fast.” Could it be true that this tiny cow town literally in the Middle of Nowhere, Utah, was hosting such an event?

Yes, it is true.  It just goes to show that no matter how far out you live,  no matter how wide you may range, much like your student loan servicer and car warranty companies the “approved narrative” will eventually find you. And small towns can be easy to overwhelm and intimidate. As it turned out, that was not the case. To save you time and me the trouble of an hour of transcribing, you can see what transpired at the library board meeting over the subject in the video below. Unless your hobby is studying small-town libraries, I recommend you scroll to about the ~58-minute mark.

One thing you may notice from the video is that the proponents of the event in two cases start out on the verge of tears and end up shaking with rage. The opponents were resolute but stayed calm when it was their turn to speak. Tears and rage can be powerful weapons. They can silence opponents and can control the narrative. And it can make one’s opposition look like the villains.

I reached out to the organizer, Letricia Fall, and asked her for a comment. I told her that I would include her comments and I received a very lengthy set of notes. Much of what she sent me was in her remarks during the meeting. Here are some highlights from comments that she did not get a chance to make.

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If they are in support of LGBTQ people then why did they fight to not allow Pride flags in the schools and why are GSAs not allowed. Why does every Pride flag get stolen or cut off the poles each year during Project Rainbows flag campaign? Why does the one church that openly support the LGBTQ community continuously get vandalized? Why has the community NEVER attended any of the community events hosted by the Uintah Basin Equality Center? Why do the community pages (like Vernal Strong “managed by the travel and tourism director”) refuse to allow us to post simple events from the LGBTQ community? Maybe the question is how DO they support the LGBTQ community?

As a resident of Uintah County I have the legal right to host this event at the library. I know this because we have lawyers that have been advising every step of the way, since before I even scheduled the event to ensure that every policy was followed. Beyond library policy I also have The First Amendment right. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and petition. The First Amendment protects the right to express opinions, ideas, and viewpoints freely. Therefore, individuals and groups have the right to hold events and express their opinions at public spaces, such as parks, streets, or other government-owned areas, without interference from the government.

I deserve to have my rights granted to me the same as every other citizen in this county. While I did not agree with the Trump rally that happened in 2020, I did not cry to the county commissioners to shut it down as I believe everyone has a right to their own political views. While I think that vaccinations are the moral thing to do, I did not support forced vaccinations for COVID-19. While I thought the anti-mask rally on the courthouse lawn sounded like a bunch 4 year olds throwing a temper tantrum, I did not go and counter protest as they had the right to their feelings. And while coaches and administrators are wearing MAGA hats in the district, even though it is against policy and my belief is that message stands for racism, misogyny, and homophobia, I am not going to fight against it, instead we are going to fight for the allowance of Pride flags in the classrooms in secondary education. But that’s a tomorrow problem.

Everyone has the right to safe spaces and that simple symbolism has been directly correlated to a 40% reduction in suicide amongst LGBTQ youth and lowers the rate of suicide amongst all youth. But that is a fight for another day. In this community there are very few safe spaces and events where no one has to hide any part of themselves in fear. For those asking where are there safe spaces for a straight white dominant religion person, look around you, every space is our safe space. You don’t recognize them because your occupancy of any space has never been challenged.

Regardless of how my beliefs and values may differ from yours, although if you took the time to get to know me you would realize we are actually very similar. You do not have the right to harass, call names, or bully. You do not have the right to issue death threats and threats of violence against me or our guest. You do not have the right to put my home address and cell phone number plastered all over the internet. You do not have the right to threaten with rape or sexual violence. You absolutely do not have the right to make the librarians the target of hateful and inappropriate outrage by the community. And every person who treated them unkindly should be ashamed of themselves. And you do not have the right to make any child or adult feel like their existence is invalid and their life is not worth living.

I don’t believe this moral outrage has anything to do with the type of event that we are hosting, who is invited to it, or where it is held. As some of the very same people (I have receipts if you want them) had similar responses when there was a Black Lives Matter picnic held at Constitution Park, the same people also threatened violence to visiting vendors of the craft fair whose van had Black Lives Matter written all over it, the community response was to smash out their windows, as the Project Rainbow liaison for the Uintah Basin, I can tell you that every single Pride flag with the exception of a two, one of which was at my house, were either stolen or cut off their poles last year, some were damaged several times after replacing them. Some of these flags were chopped down with a machete.

These are the same people that with the mention of gender-inclusive restrooms in the schools lost their minds and started calling transgender people pedophiles, pedophilia seems to be a recurring theme. These are the same people that ran a midwife out of her home because she dared to care about the loss of children and the oil & gas industry.

As you can see this isn’t about a Drag Story hour. This is a pattern of the “silent majority”, which turns out is just the loud-mouthed minority, in bullying and trying to prevent anyone or any event that is different from them or their beliefs into this community and to let them know they don’t belong in their community. This is a clear pattern that has been used to create division and incite fear to overshadow the real issues here.

(sic)

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I will be happy to send anyone her full statement. It was simply too long to include here.

I was unable to corroborate the incident involving the BLM picnic or van. I’m not saying that an incident did not occur; I just could not corroborate it with law enforcement. A spokesperson from the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office confirmed reports of a handful of Pride flags being stolen but also added that a handful of American flags had been stolen. As to why people do not come to the local Equality Center for LGBTQ events, they probably do not come for the same reason that, barring special events involving people I know, I normally don’t attend events at the LDS ward chapels or stake centers. I’m not LDS and those events don’t interest me.  So I don’t go to those for the same reason people don’t go to LGBTQ events. They aren’t interested in them.

As an aside, there is mention of  the woman who was run out of her home for daring to care about “the loss of children and the oil & gas industry.” I remember that event. I don’t recall the woman being run out of her home. But the issue involved a midwife who discovered a children’s section in a local cemetery and attributed the children’s deaths to the pollutants created by energy extraction and the trucks that service the oil and gas fields. The left-leaning Salt Lake Tribune had a field day with the story, which turned out not to be true. I checked in with the Air Quality office at the Bingham Research Center located at the local extension of Utah State University. This was the answer I got:

The short answer is that no, there is no credible evidence that air quality problems in the Uinta Basin led to a measurable increase in infant mortality.  The state health department did a pair of studies that showed that, while the Basin did have an uptick in infant deaths in 2013, the location of that uptick (Duchesne County) wasn’t the same as the supposed increase in deaths identified by the midwife (Vernal), and it wasn’t statistically significant, and the Basin’s infant mortality rate was statistically significantly lower than the national average, even in 2013.  Overall, the Basin’s infant mortality rate is about the same as the rest of the state, and a lot better than the national average.

Air pollution can indeed lead to negative birth outcomes, including stillbirth.  But those impacts are relatively small and are only discernable via statistical analysis of large datasets.  The level of air pollution that would be needed to lead to the sort of stillbirth apocalypse that the media and the midwife claimed would be astronomical, far worse than what the Basin has ever been known to experience.

So, that story, while certainly incendiary, is not based in fact, but rather in emotion. So if the story of the midwife has been exaggerated, might other incidents have been exaggerated as well? It is a question that deserves to be asked.

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This is not to say that people are not capable of being jerks or making threats over social media. If you don’t know that by now please let the post office know to which cave or rock it should forward your mail. I have no doubt that Ms. Fall and her colleagues saw nasty and threatening posts. Such is the nature of the beast. But it also behooved me to talk with her opposition. In this case, it was local mom Autumn Hancock.

You can see Autumn in the video above. She and her fellow supporters have also appeared at meetings of the county commission and have met with the county attorney’s office, which had originally not read the books that were going to be presented at the story hour. I did not receive a comment from the county. It has said that the story hour is legal and falls within the First Amendment. Reportedly, the drag queen in question is suing the city of St. George, Utah, over a similar issue.

Ms. Fall said that the performer in question, Tara Lypsyncki, has raised millions for children’s charities and will be appropriately dressed for the event. Autumn said that after she saw the event on Facebook, she looked into Lypsyncki’s social media background, and found very lewd, very explicit posts. Here is an example of his work on YouTube, entitled “Boy is a Bottom Parody.”

I don’t think I need to clarify the subject of the song for you. At least I hope I don’t. Autumn also told me that Lypsyncki has also recorded a country version of “WAP.” And you, dear reader, are on your own if you want to learn more about that. Autumn said that she had been to drag shows when she lived in Nashville and considers drag to be adult entertainment. She also noted that performers frequently ask that the audience look them up on social media and that she feared that children would see Lypsyncki’s feeds.  She added that no one had a problem with drag queens until children got involved. As mentioned above, she said that the county attorney had not read the books that would be presented at the event (the books are “My Shadow is Purple” and “The You Kind of Kind) and that she and the other opponents were told that community standards are “just words” and that the county would follow the law.

The idea that community standards are “just words” doesn’t quite pass the smell test. At one event in the past, a tug-of-war was scheduled, the prize being a pallet of beer. Years ago, the rodeo committee approved a bikini contest as a kind of aftershow. In fact, I knew the organizer. In both cases objections were made by the community and the events were canceled because they did not meet community standards. So, standards apply to bikini contests and beer but not drag queen story hour?

Autumn raised the point that if the First Amendment was the only standard, people could use space at the library to advocate for joining the Klan or even suicide. She also noted that the story hour is a private event by RSVP only, but that runs contrary to library policy. The point has been made that safeguards have been put in place to prevent anything untoward from happening, and any attendee who is not a parent or guardian will be made to stand at the back of the room. Furthermore, it has been said that while Lypsyncki may engage in sexually oriented performances that does not mean he will do so at the event. Autumn is a singer and said that prior to a booking, she has had to submit a video of her performances. She has requested that someone review videos of Lypsyncki’s past performances and appearances and has asked that the event at least be put on hold until parents and residents have more information about Lypsyncki. She also mentioned to me that the majority of the people with whom she has spoken have indicated that they are opposed to the event being held at the library. Autumn pointed out that the event could have been held at the Equity Center and no one would have cared. And even if they did care, there wouldn’t have been anything they could have done about it. She said that there has been talk of a protest and that the people hosting the story hour plan to shield those entering the venue with rainbow umbrellas. So it promises to be quite a show even before Lypsyncki takes the stage. A protest will probably lend credence to the notion that the opponents are violent, hate-filled homophobes, and not concerned parents, thereby creating a perfect photo-op. It would be far better if opponents just skipped the library on that day and opted for an alternate story hour that is being sponsored by a local Baptist church. But then it isn’t my town anymore.

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Finally, there is  a statement from Ms. Fall that “there is zero data that supports drag queens or the LGBTQ community at large are at increased risk for sexually abusing children.”  I have said before and will say again that I have known gay and lesbian people who have been fiercely protective of children and advocated for their safety. And let us be honest, the incidents of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, other mainline Protestant denominations,  various public school systems, and, yes, even the Mormon Church are legion. Of that, there can be no denial. But to say that it is non-existent in the LGBTQ sphere is ludicrous.

In September of last year, I wrote about a drag event in a Chattanooga bar in which a child can be clearly seen stroking the groin of a performer who looks on and smiles. In January I told you about a drag brunch in Texas in which children gathered up dollar bills thrown at a performer. After that, the master of ceremonies offered the following toast: “So raise your glasses. Cheers to you, cheers to me. Cheers to the ones who lick us where we pee.” Well done, sir. I’m sure no childhood would be complete without hearing that toast.

My PJ Media colleague, Kevin Downey Jr., was kind enough to answer a call I put out for reports of incidents. He offers multiple examples here. Then there was the incident of a Kentucky man who was a daycare worker and identified as trans molesting an infant. Or take the story of the man who was accused of flashing his genitals to women three times in a locker room at an Ohio YWCA. It would appear that it is high time that the LGBTQ community purges its ranks of predators and people taking advantage of the trans label to enact their perversions. If nothing else, the community owes it to itself. Not to mention the kids.

Or take my story. As regular readers may know my paternal grandmother decided that she wanted a girl and not a boy. To that end, she tried to trans my father back in the ’40s before it was all the rage. It ended up being nothing less than a disaster for him, my mother, and for me. You can read my story, “The Collateral Damage of a Movement,”  in its entirety here. I’m not saying that being gay, trans or questioning made my father a wreck. But twisting his sexuality at a young age and sexualizing him before his time certainly did.

And I haven’t even touched on the horrific effects that transitioning can have on a young body. For that, I recommend visiting Scott Newgent’s website. Scott is a lesbian who decided to transition to being a man. His story and those of others and the damage done to them are compelling and shocking.

No one has ever been able to explain why sexualizing children is a good thing. Because no one can. I’m not gay, but people in high school assumed I was. And I got knocked around for it on more than one occasion. So I empathize with people who have been harassed because of their orientation. And perhaps Lypsyncki will be quite vanilla compared to his other efforts. But can we not teach our children about compassion, respect, and dignity without creating a sexual sideshow? Yes, I believe we can. But I also know that we risk being called transphobes, haters, and even murderers by advocating for that. I run that risk. Autumn Hancock runs that risk and so do you. But you must ask yourself, is it worth it to speak out, no matter what they call you?

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