I anticipated having a slow roll-out for this blog before tackling big issues but… such is not the state of our world. Let me introduce you to Bill H4 4323. This bill would reduce “aid to public libraries that host drag queen story hour.” It would frankly punish libraries financially for having this kind of programming. It’s been proposed in the Minnesota Legislature as of today, likely in response to a flurry of panic that went around last fall after a drag queen allegedly flashed a group of children at a Hennepin County Library. That absolutely did not happen, but it didn’t stop fear-mongering from child projection groups and anti-LGBT groups from shaking their fists and being enraged.
Let me break this down a bit before I jump into the action piece of this. For those who don’t belong to the LGBTQ+ community or who have never met a drag performer, the idea of drag is likely synonymous with sex. The entirety of LGBTQ+ identity is generally conflated as such (which as a demi biromantic queer gal, is absolutely not the case).* There is so much more to people than an interest in sex and drag, generally, is not sexual. There may be some performers who like more sensual moves or make bawdy jokes during shows. But these are clearly not the kind of performances being given to children.
Drag performers are like any other kind of performer – they have personas but their persona is different depending on the setting. Brad Pitt may act one way in a movie, but it doesn’t meant that’s who he is as a person. Lady Gaga may act or perform something in a music video and be completely different in an interview on 60 minutes. Drag performers are no different – they just generally happen to be defying gender norms as they do it.
I could dig into the all the ways that gender normativity is seen as frightening or dangerous, but I would be here all night (besides, there are far better book about it out there. I’m reading Jacob Tobia’s book Sissy right now and I can’t recommend it enough). The fact is that groups with more power are speaking out against performers they don’t know and events they don’t understand. Drag Time Story Hour promotes literacy and exposing children to diverse voices and different ways of being. It is meant to embrace all the different perspectives in the world and acknowledge that gender is not just black or white – it’s many different complex colors. People are complex and library events like this help enrich children as they build a mental landscape of what our world is like. It’s not dangerous. It’s not deviant. The LGBTQ+ community is the safest place I know, where I can be myself, love myself, and fight for the world I want to live in, a world where no one has be afraid of who they are.
I’m asking you to take a moment and contact your representatives (which you can find here) or contact the Education Finance Division who influences this decision. As a librarian who fiercely defends programming to allow many voices and new experiences to exist, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and a fighter for our rights and freedoms in this country, please reach out to your representatives. These experiences did not exist when I was a child but I can only imagine what it would have been like for me to see someone embrace reading and femininity in the way that drag story time performers do. It honestly would have changed my life. Please keep this programming in Minnesota and allow libraries to do what they do best – serving people, challenging censorship, and welcoming diversity and inclusion.
*Please note that as a queer activist I may use a lot of terminology that may not be familiar off the bat. Never be afraid to ask a question (you won’t look stupid and I’m happy to answer what I can, though I’m not an educator exactly). And also feel welcome to dive into your own research (whether it be library or Wikipedia)!