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Montana Library Cancels Trans Woman's History Lecture Due to Anti-Drag Law

Montana Library Cancels Trans Woman's History Lecture Due to Anti-Drag Law

Trans flag and Montana map

Adria Jawort, a Native American trans woman, was to speak on the history of LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit people in the state.

A library in Montana has canceled a transgender Native American woman’s talk for fear that the event would violate the state’s new anti-drag law.

Adria Jawort was to speak Friday at noon at the Butte Public Library on the topic of “Montana History of Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ Peoples.” But her appearance was “abruptly canceled” Thursday by J.P. Gallagher, chief executive for the city of Butte and Silver Bow County, the Montana Standard reports.

Gallagher, who proclaimed Pride Month for the city and county the same day, told the Standard he had no objections to the event, “but we would be in violation of state law if we allowed this person to give her presentation.”

House Bill 359, which Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law in May, bans drag story hours at publicly funded schools and libraries, and it also prohibits any “sexually oriented” performances at those venues or on any public property where children are present. It and it took effect immediately. Violators will be fined and are subject to lawsuits.

Jawort, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, is a writer and political director for Indigenous Vote. She had tweeted about the lecture, “I'm really entertaining at this one, too. BUT this literally might be illegal in Mont. as a flamboyantly dressed trans woman. I don't get paid, but in fascist red state you pay state 4 ‘crimes’ instead. … And I will def have a book & sexuality will be discussed & minors may be present, & the State of Montana doesn’t legally recognize people being trans, so ...”

Gianforte has also signed a bill into law that defines gender as binary. Activists have called it an “LGBTQ+ erasure law.”

Jawort told Montana Public Radio she was making a point about the broad reach of the state’s new laws. “We always said these laws could technically target trans people, so that was my whole reason for the post,” she said.

After the cancellation, she underlined that point on Twitter, saying of the anti-drag law, “The irony is I testified against this bill saying it would target trans people that would include of course me. They denied it. Now here I am, targeted.”

Jawort would be willing to give her talk at another time and place, she told MPR.

Stef Johnson, director of the Butte library, told the Standard of the cancellation, “Our commitment to promoting inclusivity and intellectual exploration remains, but not in violation of the law.”

An adult services librarian there, Shari Curtis, said she was shocked by the move, and nothing like it had ever happened in her experience. She emailed several media outlets saying she regretted the cancellation of the lecture, as it “was bound to be a good one,” the Standard reports. It was to be on history alone, Curtis said.

“The Butte Public Library supports free speech and our LGBTQ+ community, but the county leadership overruled us,” she added in the email.

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