Drag Queen Story Hour has been canceled in Apex, N.C., after city officials received complaints and even threats of violence.
It was one of several events planned for the Apex Pride Festival, to be held this coming Saturday. Last Saturday, Mayor Jacques Gilbert announced on Facebook that he had met with the Apex Festival Commission concerning feedback he’d received about the story hour and that the commission had decided to cancel that part of the fest. Other activities will go on as planned, including some drag performances, area TV station WNCN reports.
He did not offer details about the feedback, but Apex Town Council member Audra Killingsworth included more information in a comment on the post.
“We have had many emails sent to us at Council complaining about the drag story hour event,” she wrote. “Multiple members of Apex Pride have been sent nasty emails, messages, etc. Over the past couple of weeks it has escalated to violent threats against multiple members of the Apex Festival Commission. Because of those threats, the commission decided to pull the drag queen story hour.”
The chair of the Apex Festival Commission told WNCN that he’d received two disturbing phone calls, saying harm would come to him and his family if the story hour was held. That led directly to the cancellation, he said. The station did not include the chair’s name.
There were hundreds of comments on Mayor Gilbert’s Facebook post, some of them hateful, so he disabled comments on it Monday. “I will not tolerate disrespectful comments attacking others and hate speech on this page,” he wrote. He noted that he has “very close family members of the LGBTQIA+ community who I love dearly” and that he was the first Apex mayor to sign a Pride proclamation. Apex is a town of about 55,000 near the Raleigh-Durham area.
Several parents expressed disappointment that the story hour was canceled, including Apex Pride cofounder DeAnna Conard.
“While it may seem a small part to everything that we have planned for Saturday, it’s very important,” she told WNCN. “When you have celebrations and festivals of different kinds sometimes it’s difficult to find something that really resonates and involves the children that come. Drag story hour is extremely popular; our children love it, and their friends love it.”
"There are a group of people that got very upset that we were going to allow drag queens to sit down and read stories to our kids and that's how it all got started," resident Ellen Dershowitz, who serves on the Apex Pride committee and is a parent of an LGBTQ+ child, told WTVD. "I felt like we were putting our kids back in the closet."
Dershowitz added, "Do we have to fight this every year? Or are we going to stand up and say enough? This is not hurting anybody."
The organization Drag Queen Story Hour has chapters in several North Carolina cities. It looks to capture "the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models."
The Advocate has reached out to Drag Queen Story Hour for comment.