US: Some Libraries Are Facing Backlash Against LGBT Programs — And Holding Their Ground

Author Michelle Tea started Drag Queen Story Hour in 2015, shortly after giving birth to her son Atticus. As a new mother, she suddenly found herself at events like storytimes at her local San Francisco library, which felt welcoming but “really straight,” she said. The writer, who identifies as queer, imagined a storytime that promoted diversity and inclusion, with a pinch of camp — a family event that reflected her own family. “There is just a sort of flair with which queers do anything,” she said. “It's just a certain sense of humor, a sense of the fantastic.” So Tea, in collaboration with RADAR Productions, organized her own fantastic take on storytime at a library in the Castro, one of the country’s most historic LGBT neighborhoods. The concept was simple: a drag queen reading queer-inclusive children’s books to kids. It was a huge hit,” Tea said, “and then it just spread.”

Today, Drag Queen Story Hour has 27 official chapters in cities ranging from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Bristol, England, and it has inspired countless unofficial offshoots. Readings have taken place at schools, bookstores, and museums but have mostly found a home at public libraries. For Tea, the pairing makes sense. “Librarians are the unsung heroes of our culture,” she said. “They are constantly fighting for our freedom of speech. They are on the front lines.”

This mission of inclusivity has inspired other programs. Recently, Aimee started a training program for Drag Queen Story Hour specific to autistic kids, in partnership with the New York Public Library and in collaboration with a friend who runs a blog reviewing books for autistic children.

As the program has expanded to more conservative parts of the country, drag queen storytimes have been thrust into the crosshairs of the culture wars. Protestors have gathered outside of libraries in Mobile, AlabamaColumbus, Georgia; and Port Jefferson, New York, with Alex Jones and other right-wing shock jocks condemning the program. For the most part, attacks on programs like the Drag Queen Story Hour have been scattershot attempts from religious groups or lone zealots — like an Iowa man who recently filmed himself burning LGBT-inclusive library books by a lake — who’ve been far outnumbered by supporters, and events have proceeded as planned. Read more via Buzzfeed