Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Drag Queen Story Hour
Details (from their Facebook Fan page): Drag Queen Story Hour is just what it sounds like: local drag queens reading stories to children. Created by Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions in San Francisco, DQSH now happens in SF, LA, New York, and beyond.
Drag Queen Story Hour captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity in 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, and where dress-up is real.
In the red and blue trunks:
Pro-Family Community Gather
Details (from their Facebook Events page): We’re back! This is for ALL of the community to come together and over shadow this “Drag Queen Story Hour” which is a group of far-left extremists, pushing their political and out-of-this-world ideology in our community.
This more than Politics, this is an attack on our children; it’s our duty to protect the innocent.
In the rainbow trunks:
Wall of Love and Support
Details (from their Facebook event page): Research proves that reading aloud to children is the single most important activity for enabling eventual success in reading and, therefore, likelihood for success in school and life. Our Greenville community is fortunate to have many people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds and cultures. Drag Queen Story Time @ the Five Forks Library Branch aims to connect children with a rainbow of great storytellers. Unfortunately, a small but vocal few, do not believe in fostering a community of acceptance and love. Please join us as we form a “Wall of Love” around those who want to share their love for reading and celebrate the uniqueness of all people. We will do this peacefully and protect the calmness of the event from those whose sole aim is to disrupt and force their narrow-minded opinions on the community. Please join is and wear any clothing or buttons that support those running the event.
All of the above was the gearing up of two opposing sides ready to defend or protest the coming of the Drag Queen Story Hour to be held at the Greenville County Library System; Five Forks Branch in Simpsonville, South Carolina on February 17th, 2019. Ever since the inception and posting of the DQSH on social media, there has been a backlash of comments from those who believe this use of the library is in contempt of their moral and religious beliefs, the protection from exposure of drag queens to their children, the misappropriation of their tax dollars for an event that they do not agree should be held in a civil space, and many more. There has been radio station and local television news coverage denoting the opinions, perspectives and views of both sides.
One of the great things about living in the United States of America is the fact that anyone can stand up and voice their opinion. If someone wants to march in protest of something that they find unlikeable or offensive, it is their right as described under their First Amendment Rights to free speech and the right to peaceably assemble.
ACTUAL LANGUAGE: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
SYNOPSIS: Prohibits Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the right to petition the government
A vocal few attending the Pro-Family Community Gathering counter-event sponsored by the GOP Politics of South Carolina and the Greenville Tea Party recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the National Anthem, plus had rousing speeches from pastors and politicians throughout the day. On the other side of the barricades were peoples from all walks of the LBGTQ+ community. Whether an active member of gender or sexual alternative—or an ally for the cause for what they considered the right side of history—many of us came together in protest of a protest that didn’t want children to be exposed to drag queens reading positive message children’s stories to them.
When I originally had intended to write this piece, I had wanted to point out all of the Pro-Family Community Gathering’s points as to why they were protesting. From the event being an insidious way to indoctrinate children into an alternative lifestyle to the fear that the drag queens would expose themselves to the little ones, and even to deem the event as a way to prey upon the gender-fluidness of children to a point where the child will walk away from moral values in favor of a flamboyant cultural dogma where people are “open” to the “acceptance of all behaviors and attitudes… by suppressing both instinct and intellect through a twisted “education.”” (According to an article by Rita Dunaway ‘What Drag Queen Story Hour Says about Us’ on the online The Stream). I realized that my written voice wasn’t going to persuade hearts and minds by directly offering counterpoints (and solutions) to the opposition. Instead, I am going to focus my positive energies to what I am truly thankful for.
The children, while bearing witness to both sides of the protest as they stood in line with their parents and having to walk from a second parking lot because there was a protest in the first place, all had an opportunity to get inside the library to see and hear the drag queens read aloud the positive messages of the selected children’s stories. As the families emerged from the libraries, all of us outside cheered and hooted and clapped for them as a parting gesture of happiness and good will.
I met some amazing people at my first-ever counter-protest. I didn’t know what to expect and I was a little concerned for what might happen. But, as soon as I arrived at the meeting point, a woman asked me if I was going to read to the children. I was floored and grateful. I could never be as fantastic and fabulous as the wonderful women who were a part of the event. My new friend, Ellen, had no stake or reason to be at the event other than the fact that she, in her words, “… was a bleeding-heart liberal.” Ellen quickly introduced me to Krystle and Aziem, and we headed off to the “battlefront”. I met a woman named Holly, who is in a wonderful relationship with a transgender person. There were so many others—with their own stories as to what brought them out on such a rainy and cold day—who made an impression on me and on my heart. I want to send out shoutouts to Richard, Marty and Bridget, Emily, Natalie, and George (from across The Pond), Skylar, Jo, Rev. Cindy, and Heather and Tristyn.
For the most part, our side was civil and positive, with signs with messages denoting love over hate, tolerance over ignorance, and plenty of rainbow colors. Of course, there was shouting on both sides about whether a passage in the Bible talking about a man dressing as a woman could be interpreted as also being valid for the woman wearing jeans standing next to the sign holder. Of course, these “discussions” do not usually result in an epiphany on either side, so they serve little more than to be an energy-expending distraction. And, I admit, I was a little fired up, too, at times, but I did keep my responses to hoots and cheers. But, there was one singular person who made all the difference in the day for me.
While walking toward the stores to meet up with some arriving friends, a woman approached me. She told me, “I’m sorry.” I wasn’t sure what she was sorry for, but she stood there in the cold in her hooded coat with tears in her eyes. She said, “I’m sorry for how they are treating you,” and told me she was a Christian and that she hated how the protesters were demonizing us. I assumed she meant how the drag queens were being treated—or she could have meant how the LGBTQ+ community was being treated, in general. She was wrestling with how she had been instructed to conduct her faith and the conflict of her conscience as she saw her fellow Christians (and others, of course) fueled with such hatred, venom and condemnation. I gave her a big hug and told her, “thank you,” in return. This woman was that “one” person—that person whose mind, heart, and spirit was open to the idea of trying to understand who we are as individuals and as a community. My heart opened up, too, welling with the hope that people can be open to who we are and come to the table for a general discourse and humble conversation. This woman in the hooded tan puffy coat—who hugged me in the cold and drizzle—made me a more hopeful person and made the day completely worthwhile.