The month of June is Pride month, celebrating inclusion and the LGBTQ community. The Logan Branch of the Free Library brought Pride to kids with its first Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) on Wednesday morning, June 19.
Four years ago, a drag queen walked into a library in San Francisco and hosted the very first Drag Queen Story Hour. Ever since, libraries in various cities have hosted their own, though not without backlash among protesters and media commentators.
“Our goal in this library is to ensure that it’s an open and welcoming space for everyone,” said Fred Ginyard, a community organizer for the Free Library, as he pointed to a rainbow-colored Pride flag hanging in the main hallway.
“You can come into this space as you are,” he said.
The day was not without its hiccups, though. The original drag queen scheduled to read had to cancel, but that didn’t stop administrators at the library from putting on a show.
Ginyard decided he could fill the shoes, literally. Six inch red stilettos to be exact.
“I’ve run different types of workshops and activities in the library that are all about breaking the standard binary, particularly around gender,” he said.
Ginyard had no problem dressing in drag at the last minute.
Some giggled, but most cheered as Ginyard made his grand entrance sporting red lipstick and purple glitter. Ginyard waved to the children wearing a multi-colored fedora with a matching T-shirt that said ‘Brooklyn’ in rainbow.
The book he chose to read was King and King, a fairytale about a prince who meets his true love, another prince named Lee.
Once he was done reading, Ginyard spoke briefly to the children.
“Wasn’t that a good story?” he said. “All about love and loving others.”
The children agreed and nodded.
One of those children was Rachel Lyons’ 3-year-old son. The two just moved to the neighborhood and learned about this particular story hour after a prior visit to the library. Lyons had no hesitation.
“I wanted to see what it was all about,” she said.
She was initially familiar with the concept of Drag Queen Story Hours through social media posts and protests on the news, she said.
Lyons has a sister who is gay and feels strongly about exposing her son to all kinds of people. Ensuring that her son is compassionate and understanding is her main goal, she said.
“The earlier that you get your children exposed to things, the less likely it is that when they get older they’ll be negative to it,” Lyons said.
According to the official DQSH website, the organization’s only agenda is to encourage children to be themselves. The American Library Association also hosts resources for libraries interested in organizing their own Drag Queen Story Hour.
Religious communities and concerned parents groups have also organized protests against Drag Queen Story Hours nationwide.
Crowds gathered outside the Lansdale Public Library back in February when a DQSH was set to take place. Tom Meyer, the director of the Lansdale Library, said that he knew that people had planned to protest the event. He didn’t let that stop story time.
The same thing happened at Lovett Memorial Library in Mt. Airy when a Christian group from Hanover showed up to protest a drag reading in April.
“We had an inkling that there would be protesters” said Dana Guisti, a librarian at the Mt. Airy Branch.
Local community members saw what was happening and responded with a counter protest of their own. Giusti said that she had organized two drag storytimes at the Lovett Branch prior to one in April without any issues at all, including a Drag Queen Superhero Storytime on June 26.
The ALA Office of Information Freedom offers resources for libraries and librarians facing protests and censorship pressure, especially during Pride month.
There weren’t any protesters outside storytime at the Logan Branch, though. The Free Library’s description of the event online was only listed as “Storytime,” though flyers for the event inside the libraries advertised “Drag Queen Storytime.”
Librarian Rich Torrance of the Logan Branch is excited to host more LGBTQ awareness and inclusion events like Drag Queen Story Hour. He said that they had originally planned the event especially for Pride month, but expect to have more in the future.
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