They’re busting out everywhere from Annapolis to Vancouver and cities everywhere between – “Drag Queen Story Hours.”
But it’s in Houston where they have run into their first lawsuit.
The purpose of the exhibitions is to feature real drag queens, not in cabarets and discos, but in library performances for kids – as role models.
“Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) is just what it sounds like – drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores,” explains the budding enterprise on its website. “DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.”
Founded by Michelle Tea, a Tarot card “artist,” author and the non-profit RADAR productions in San Francisco – but this venture has gone viral in recent years.
It’s become an altogether big thing.
You might recall seeing it in the Michelle Obama public library in Long Beach, California. No, Michelle wasn’t there, but maybe soon.
“DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real,” the DQSH website reads. “DQSH happens regularly in LA, New York, and San Francisco, and events are popping up all over the world!”
It’s all about giving kids, in particular, “unabashedly queer role models,” according the program’s website.
It even has the imprimatur of Judy Zuckerman, the director of youth and family services in the Brooklyn Public Library: “Drag Queen Story Hour is a fun and important program that celebrates diversity in the way that children may dress and act. It encourages children to look beyond gender stereotypes and embrace unfettered exploration of self. Programs like DQSH encourage acceptance of difference and help to prevent bullying, while providing an enjoyable literary experience.”
So, what’s all the ruckus about?
The lawsuit was filed Friday by plaintiffs, some of whom identify themselves as “Christ followers,” who asked a federal judge to halt the readings claiming they are not appropriate – for story hours, for kids, in public libraries.
One of the plaintiffs, a homeschooler, said he couldn’t use the library during story time.
The library director and Mayor Sylvester Turner are named as defendants, accused of being recklessly entangled in “LGBT doctrine.” The lawsuit says the storytelling sessions advertised as appropriate for patrons of all ages at the Freed-Montrose Neighborhood branch should not be funded with taxpayer dollars since the library would not host a “man-woman marriage storytelling hour.”
Just so there is no mistake, Drag Queen Story Hour says it is specifically designed for aged 3 to 8.
“Drag queens trained by children’s librarians read children’s books, sing children’s songs, and lead children in craft activities,” the organization explains.
The program is also specifically designed to expose kids to “gender fluidity.”
“Many children express gender fluidity,” the group suggests. “DQSH teaches children to embrace gender diversity in themselves and in others, and helps to curb bullying of LGBTQ children and kids who may be perceived as different in all kinds of ways.”
But is it necessary – in a library or children’s museum?
“LGBTQ-positive programs like DQSH are a vital part of making the world a safe and affirming place for all children,” says the website. “LGBTQ children need role models, and all children should learn to embrace gender diversity and learn empathy.”
But can’t this be confusing to children?
“There are many things in the world that are confusing,” explains the program. “Adults don’t always have all the answers, but we can ask questions and learn together. A great place to start is Sez Me, a free LGBTQ web series for the whole family. We also recommend looking at resources from organizations like Gender Spectrum, GLSEN, and PFLAG, as well as local LGBTQ groups.”
It may be coming to a public school or pre-school near you.
“What an amazing way to teach individuality, empathy, and acceptance!” exclaimed Alexis Hernandez, first grade teacher at PS 118, the Maurice Sendak Community School. “Drag Queen Story Hour gave my first graders a fun and interactive platform to talk and think about social and emotional issues like acceptance, being yourself, and loving who you are. Through books, songs, arts and crafts, and movement activities, they explored these issues and had an amazing time doing it! During our debrief after DQSH, they were preaching the incredible lessons they had learned, like ‘It’s ok to be different,’ and ‘There’s no such thing as ‘boy’ things or ‘girl’ things.’ I was proud to be able to have DQSH at my school and will definitely be planning another story hour for next year!”
In another testimonial, Katrine Green, teacher at the Chickpeas Preschool had this to say: “Drag Queen Story Hour allows preschool children to deepen and complicate their ideas about gender at the exact age when they are often developing rigid ideas about this concept. The program is fun, interactive, family-friendly, and conveys important messages about gender and diversity in a way that is light and accessible to all. I would invite Drag Queen Story Hour back to my school any time!”