Jun 13, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Drag queen story hours increasingly on alert after threats, slurs

People gathered for Drag Queen Story Hour

Drag queens read to people gathered for Drag Queen Story Hour in Riverside, California in June 2019. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

A number of story time events for children hosted by drag queens have been scrapped, or have seen organizers have to change venues, as the long-running events have become the latest flashpoint in a wave of anti-LGBTQ political organizing.

Why it matters: Drag Queen Story Hours, during which drag queens read children's books to kids, are aimed at fostering inclusive community spaces and have been happening for years with some blowback.

  • But a disturbance Saturday by men thought to have links with a far-right group at one of the events is shedding light on the recent hostility that has surrounded the book readings in some places.

Driving the news: The men, who are believed to be affiliated with the extremist Proud Boys group, made white power hand gestures and shouted homophobic and transphobic insults at Panda Dulce, the drag queen hosting the story hour in San Lorenzo, California.

  • The men "marched in with their cameras blazing, point at me, jeering from the back," Dulce told the Bay Area's KGO-TV.
  • "I've always received death threats, hate mail for doing drag queen story hour. This time it felt very close to violence," Dulce said to KPIX 5 Sunday.
  • The Alameda County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Sunday it's investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Zoom out: Several story hours around the country have had to cancel or make accommodations after facing heavy criticism from community members.

  • City council members in Ketchikan, Alaska will debate Thursday whether to cancel a planned drag queen story time at the local library set for June 17, after dozens of residents last week packed a meeting of the library's advisory board to discuss the topic, per KRBD.
  • A Montana zoo confirmed Friday it's standing by its decision to host a Drag Queen Story Hour despite backlash. "At the end of the day, we want to provide space for all," ZooMontana Executive Director Jeff Ewelt said in a statement, per KTVQ.
  • A Drag Queen Story Hour in Apex, North Carolina held in honor of the town's Pride Festival was canceled earlier this month due to complaints from residents that escalated into threats against members of the town's Festival Commission. Another organization, Equality NC, then stepped up to sponsor the Pride Festival and reinstated the story hour, per News & Observer.
  • A story hour slated for Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the kids of U.S. service members was canceled after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall demanding the event not go forward and that all staff involved in its planning be disciplined.

Between the lines: An increase in anti-drag rhetoric has coincided with Pride Month this year. It has often come from some of the same figures who have pushed for anti-trans legislation across a number of states with Republican-controlled legislatures.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has accused parents who take their kids to drag show of child abuse, similar to accusations he has levied at parents who seek gender-affirming care for their trans children.
  • Lawmakers in Florida and Texas are considering criminalizing bringing children to drag shows.

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