A library in Rye, N.Y., has indefinitely postponed a drag queen story hour, which has received homophobic and transphobic coverage in a local newspaper.
The event was scheduled to take place February 8 at the Rye Free Reading Room, the public library in the suburb of New York City. But the library’s director told The Rye Record this week that the story hour would be “deferred.”
The news came in a Thursday article by Robin Jovanovich that included every alarmist cliché about drag queen story hours. Questions that arose in a newsroom discussion about the matter, she wrote, included the following: “Are families likely to bring their young children to a program that uses drag queens to focus on inclusivity? Why are we foisting conversations on inclusivity on children that young? Are we replacing bedtime stories, which take children out of themselves and out into other, far more interesting worlds, with discussions of sexual differences when they are innocent sponges?”
She went on to quote phone calls and emails from local residents, saying the library “is trying to foist diversity and transsexuality on the community” and “assaulting [children] with political correctness.” She further quoted a friend as saying, “If we’re going to present a complex issue like this, the audience members should be much older than 8 and the presenter should be an expert on sexual preference. … This is not a child’s play dress-up topic to be presented to 3- to 8-year-olds and confuse their developing sense of self.”
When Jovanovich spoke with Shoemaker, he said he considered the event “a friendly introduction to different identities. That identity piece starts at a young age. Further, we were looking at inclusivity, not sexuality.”
But after looking at community feedback, which included many form emails, he “decided the library should pause and refocus on engaging different educators,” he said.
An online petition has been started to reinstate the story hour, however. The event “has been interpreted as threatening by a small but vocal group of citizens, who, in their ignorance, have taken a children’s event about gender identity, inclusiveness, and acceptance and conflated it with sexual identity, sex work, and pedophilia,” the petition reads. “Protests have been occurring behind closed doors — through scripted statements and anonymous petitions.” The petition has surpassed its initial goal of 1,000 signatures and is now aiming for 2,000.
GLAAD and others are also speaking out against the cancellation. “The decision to indefinitely postpone the Drag Queen Story Hour at the Rye Free Reading Room Library was ill-informed and sends the wrong message to youth and parents alike,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a press release. “The Rye Free Reading Room shut the door on a potential diversity lesson and its subsequent refusal to be transparent with local LGBTQ advocates and allies goes directly against its entire mission statement.”
“Our LGBTQ children deserve to live and thrive in a community free from exclusion and intimidation. We, as educators, understand the protective power of support and inclusive programming. Drag queen story hour falls under both of these,” said Dr. Genevieve Weber, associate professor of counseling at Hofstra University and Rye citizen, in a statement provided by GLAAD. “I see tremendous value in engaging all children early on with topics around difference. Myself, and many other Rye community members were incredibly disheartened when DQSH was removed, quietly, from the events calendar. However, within the darkness of these protests, we find support within our community that is nothing short of extraordinary. From offers to host the event at private homes, to private messages of personal struggles, our community is coming together to support each other and protest this decision.”
Meanwhile, anti-LGBTQ protesters are expected at a drag queen story hour this Saturday morning at the Putnam Valley Library, in the town of the same name slightly north of New York City. Two sheriff’s deputies will be posted there, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reports.