Drag Queen Story Hour at the Library

This week I was amazed to see a one-page article in my alumni magazine, InterCom, from University of South Carolina College of Information and Communication. The author was a sophomore named Shelby Johnson. Her article’s title was “Drag Queen Story Hour”.

At the top of that article are two color photos: one showing a drag queen reading to children and the other, a toddler reaching out to touch the jewelry on a drag queen’s hand.

At first I thought the library in the article was in the Richland County Library System in County where I did my internship. 

But a closer reading showed that it was nearer to where my home was during the year I commuted to Columbia S.C. to get a graduate-level library degree.

Here’s what you should know if you don’t live in that state. In the upper left corner of South Carolina are two counties with cities that were diametric opposites of each other while I lived there.

In the top of the far left-hand corner is Greenville County, the most populous and most liberal county in the state. 

To the right of Greenville County is Spartanburg County, the most conservative country in the state. 

To give you an idea of what I mean by ‘conservative’ is that Spartanburg was true to its name. This city had more churches than bars—but outside the city was a ring of porn movie theaters and stores. 

Perhaps the most telling thing about Spartanburg was that it banned sales of rock and roll music in its stores back then. Even its own hometown boys, the Marshall Tucker Band, were not allowed to play there.

In this century, Marshall Tucker, still touring decades later, now has fans who make the trek to see the city where their favorite band was born. 

Marshall Tucker Band

From banning rock n roll, to controversy over drag queens, you might think it was at a Spartanburg County library that people protested a Drag Queen Story Hour, but you’d be wrong. 

The event, sponsored by a group named “Mom’s Liberal Happy Hour” was held at the Five Forks Library in a tiny town with 22,072 people in 2017, named Simpsonville—located in Greenville County. 

The Sheriff’s office had deputies at the ready as a Simpsonville resident organized an online petition to cancel the event, saying “As a father, I do not want my children or community exposed to this alternative lifestyle in a public place targeting children.”   

Other critics demanded the library cancel all controversial programs because of the costs of having additional security for those events.

None of these complaints were acceptable to librarians’ code of allowing free speech and protecting their patron’s privacy.

The sponsoring group went through proper library channels, and the Drag Queen Story Hour was a success with the kids.  

Big City Drag Queen Story Hours

Oddly enough, also this week, at top right of the New York Times home page, is a long opinion piece by Michelle Goldberg titled “Leave Drag Queen Story Hour Alone”. 

This article also features a colorful article showing a drag queen reading to children at the top, and below in the text, a group of toddlers with parents in the drag queen’s audience.

As her title indicates, Goldberg’s somewhat vitriolic opinion-article is aimed at extremely conservative religious intellectuals who feel strongly ’victimized’ and even ‘persecuted’ by allowing the organization, Drag Queen Story Hour, to exist. 

I believe that, just like the South Carolina dad who objected to the Story Hour, too many other people confuse drag queens with either gay men and/or pedophiles. 

Cross-dressing by all genders of males in colorful and sometimes flamboyant feminine attire are now the core of the entertainment scene in the Bay Area of San Francisco. 

Decades ago in San Francisco there were protests over allowing a group named NAMBLY that advocated man-boy ‘love” to meet at the main library. This controversy quickly faded as law enforcement and the LBGTQ and straight communities alike drove this group underground. 

As an another article this week in the San Francisco Chronicle (June 7, 2019) about a Drag Queen Story Hour at the main library in San Francisco opened with their view of the controvery:

What do drag queens and children have in common?

They both find joy in wrapping themselves in feather boas and all things shiny and glittery

A little like the popping up of “Little Libraries” I wrote about several years ago, I predict that Drag Queen Story Hours are going to be an item in the news that will soon spread throughout this country. 

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