Drag Queen Story Hour
Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) or Drag Queen Storytime are events first started in 2015 by author and activist Michelle Tea in San Francisco with the goals to “inspire a love of reading, while teaching deeper lessons on diversity, self-love and an appreciation of others.” The events, usually geared for children aged 3–11, are hosted by drag queens who read children’s books, and engage in other learning activities in public libraries. The concept is seen as unconventional as the libraries are usually more reserved, and the queens traditionally are associated with bars and nightlife. An event organizer and performer noted, “Just like an actor can do an R-rated movie and a G-rated kids’ movie, we have different levels of how we entertain and how we can put on our character as well.”
Jonathan Hamilt, who co-founded the New York-chapter as a nonprofit said that as of June 2019, DQSH has 35 U.S., and five international chapters. The program strives to instill “the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” According to ThinkProgress, “it has been a common tactic among the far right to disrupt DQSH.”
In 2015, after San Francisco author Michelle Tea, who identifies as queer, had given birth to her son and attended children’s events finding them welcoming but heteronormative. She imagined an event that was more inclusive and affirming to LGBTQ families. Together with literary and arts non-profit Radar Productions they organized the first event at the city’s Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library in the LGBTQ Castro neighborhood. It featured Honey Mahogany and was a hit, the events have spread from there. As of November 2018, there were “27 official chapters in cities ranging from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Bristol, England, and it has inspired countless unofficial offshoots. Readings have taken place at schools, bookstores, and museums but have mostly found a home at public libraries.”
In 2017 the New York chapter incorporated as a non-profit and has received funds from the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and two city council members. The funds buy books, some DQSH events do book giveaways, go for paying the queens, and training to ensure the queens “talk effectively to children and their parents about gender identity and drag.”
Nina West, RuPaul’s Drag Race season eleven contestant and winner of Miss Congeniality, and producer of Drag Is Magic, an EP of kids music about the art form, says she hopes to inspire them to “dream big, be kind, and be their perfect selves.” West feels the art form is “an opportunity for children to get creative and think outside the boxes us silly adults have crafted for them.” Marti Gould Cummings said something similar when a video of them performing “Baby Shark” at a drag brunch event went viral. “Anyone who thinks drag isn’t for children is wrong,” said Cummings, “Drag is expression, and children are such judgment-free beings; they don’t really care what you’re wearing, just what you’re performing.” As of May 2019, the video has been viewed over 806,000 times.
West’s responded to critics who question if children are too young to experience drag, “Drag is an opportunity for anyone – including and especially children – to reconsider the masks we are all forced to wear daily.” West added, “Children are inundated with implicit imagery from media about what is ‘boy’ and what is ‘girl.’ And I believe that almost all kids are really less concerned about playing with a toy that's supposedly aligned to their gender, and more concerned with playing with toys that speak to them.”
“[Drag queens] are incredibly talented, and they are trying to live their lives, and in the process, brighten the lives of those around them. That’s the message parents should be communicating to their kids, at any age. It’s all about acceptance and being loved for who you are.”
The New York Times noted “Laura Edwards-Leeper, a clinical psychologist in Oregon who works with queer and trans kids, said that experimenting with gender expression isn’t necessarily linked to being queer or trans. “It’s normal at basically any age for boys to dress up as princesses and girls in male superhero outfits,” she said. What's changed is parenting. “When there’s no judgment, kids are more likely to feel free to explore,” Dr. Edwards-Leeper said.”
Some of the DQSH events have met with opposition towards the drag queens, and the books being read. According to ThinkProgress, “it has been a common tactic among the far right to disrupt DQSH. In June 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors and reports on anti-LGBTQ hate groups, released “White Nationalist Threats Against Transgender People Are Escalating” reporting “white nationalist and former U.S. Congressional candidate Paul Nehlen announced on June 19 a plan he called 'PROJECT DOX TRANNY STORYTIME.'" Using Telegram, “a platform favored by white nationalists and terrorists,” he urged followers to gather photos and vehicle license plates of DQSH participants for doxing, the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting private or identifying information (especially personally identifying information) about an individual. The SPLC sees conflating DQSH with the increasing public support for LGBTQ people—specifically transgender people—and culture as the reason “transphobic rhetoric, some of it violent,” has “[increased] among white nationalists and neo-Nazis.” According to the SPLC, “for far-right extremists, the increased visibility of transgender people is a sign of the growing ‘degeneracy’” from “leftists and Jews as part of an assault on white, Christian families and strict gender roles.” The extremists “believe that trans people, like immigrants and non-whites, are hastening the destruction of an idealized white, Western culture.” Another white nationalist group targeting DQSH is the American Identity Movement (formerly Identity Evropa). In August 2019, the American Library Association (ALA) affirmed its support for DQSH events in response to a petition from a conservative website and an anti-abortion group. The ALA said it encourages libraries “to continue to strive to meet the needs of all members of the community” and it wants to create a “more equitable, diverse, and inclusive society”, which “includes a commitment to combating marginalisation and underrepresentation within the communities served by libraries through increased understanding of the effects of historical exclusion”.
In September 2019, Family Research Councilsent out their daily prayer email against DQSH “citing a Bible passage that calls for death in their prayer while associating drag queens with child molestation.” The verses were “about executing people for sexual immorality.”
Steven Greenhut in Whittier Daily News shared “I understand the frustrations of religious conservatives, who have watched the culture head off in disturbing directions.” He then opined, “But putting up with some drag-queen storytelling seems like a small price to pay to live in a relatively free society.”
The books read include children’s classics, and can also feature titles “that cover such topics as gender expression and family diversity.” A popular book with DQSH has been This Day in June, written by Gayle Pitman, and illustrated by Kristyna Litten, which introduces the reader to the idea of a LGBTQ Pride parade, with images of participants and spectators. Pitman, who also wrote Sewing the Rainbow, about rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker, is also on faculty at Sacramento City College teaching psychology and women and gender studies. She feels it important to teach LGBTQ kids, including children in LGBTQ families, about subjects outside two tropes she's seen: gay and lesbian parents; and gender non-conforming children, like in 10,000 Dresses. Pitman feels that children are smarter than given credit for, and can understand complex issues like intersex bodies, if the explanation is simplified.
- Picture books
- Early reader
- Chapter books
- Young adult fiction
- List of drag groups
- List of drag kings
- List of drag queens
- Banned Books Week
- Lists of banned books
- "Drag Queen Story Hour brings pride and glamor to libraries across U.S." NBC News.
- Griffin, Julia (July 2, 2019). "Drag Queen Story Hour offers a different kind of page-turner". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2019-08-25.
- McCormick, Erin (June 13, 2017). "'Are you a boy or a girl'? Drag Queen Story Hour riles the right, but delights kids". Theguardian.com.
- "Why You Really Need to Take Your Kid to Drag Queen Storytime". Phillymag.com. July 24, 2019.
- Stack, Liam (June 6, 2019). "Drag Queen Story Hour Continues Its Reign at Libraries, Despite Backlash". Nytimes.com.
- Allen, Samantha (February 24, 2019). "Kids Love Drag Queen Storytime. Anti-LGBT Groups Want To Shut Them Down". Daily Beast. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
- Quinlan, Casey (August 31, 2019). "How 'Straight Pride' parades like the one in Boston mask a far-right agenda – ThinkProgress". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2019-09-02.
- Kuga, Mitchell (November 15, 2018). "Some Libraries Are Facing Backlash Against LGBTQ Programs — And Holding Their Ground". Buzz Feed News.
- MacGuill, Dan (October 18, 2017). "FACT CHECK: Did a Drag Queen in a 'Demonic' Outfit Read a Sexually Explicit Book to Children at a Public Library?". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
- Marusic, Kristina (August 17, 2017). "11 Drag Queen Who Are Making The World A Better Place". NewNowNext. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
- Wong, Curtis M. (May 21, 2019). "Nina West Of 'RuPaul's Drag Race' Wants Kids To Feel 'Loved And Seen' With New Video". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
- Wong, Curtis M. (March 19, 2019). "Drag Queen Performs 'Baby Shark' At 2-Year-Old's Request, And It's Delightful". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
- Casey, John (September 17, 2019). "Exposing Kids to Drag Isn't Abuse". The Advocate. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
- Hines, Alice (September 7, 2019). "Sashaying Their Way Through Youth". The New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
- Owen, Tess (June 27, 2019). "The Far Right Is Doxxing and Threatening Drag Queen Story Hour. These Queens Won't Be Stopped". Vice.com.
- Corona, Marcella. "Drag Queen Story Hour: Washoe library director says hundreds participate at Sparks event". Reno Gazette Journal. Retrieved 2019-08-25.
- Miller, Cassie (June 26, 2019). "White Nationalist Threats Against Transgender People Are Escalating". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2019-09-02.
- Flood, Alison (August 7, 2019). "Protest seeks to stop US libraries supporting Drag Queen Story Hour". The Guardian.
- Bollinger, Alex (September 6, 2019). "Is this hate group asking for a violent end to Drag Queen Story Hour?". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
- Greenhut, Steven (September 13, 2019). "Drag-queen debate spotlights creepy trend on right". Whittier Daily News. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
- Ford, Zach (September 2, 2018). "The importance of teaching kids about LGBTQ history and culture". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2019-09-02.
- Scherer, Jasper (March 16, 2019). "Houston Library apologizes after registered sex offender participated in Drag Queen Storytime". Houston Chronicle.
- "Drag queen storytime reader once charged with child sex assault". ABC13 Houston. March 16, 2019.