Many people have fond memories of going to the library as a young person. Maybe to check out books or movies, maybe to use the computer or internet, or maybe to attend programming put on for kids and teenagers. Mikayla Oz, a magician based in Iowa, shared her own experience getting started with magic in libraries with local outlet K2News, describing her younger self as thinking magic was the “coolest thing” in the world. She told the outlet she actually “got started by seeing a magician at a library. In that magic show that I saw, the magician encouraged kids to go check out the magic books [at the library] to kind of get started, and that's exactly what I did."
Sweet story, right? Oz was scheduled to do a series of magic shows for kids—maybe kids just like her younger self, who might have fallen in love with magic or performance—in Gilette, Wyoming, including at the Campbell County Public Library. Unfortunately, after a series of threats were made to both herself and the library staff, the shows have been canceled. Why the threats? Oz is an openly trans woman.
Oz, who performs magic for colleges, stand-up sets, birthday parties, and more, said she was actually approached by a few community members in Wyoming after they saw her do a library showcase before the pandemic. They enjoyed her work and invited her to do an event in their own community, but as happened across the nation, the event had to be delayed because of COVID-19. And now Oz’s program, originally scheduled to appear during the library’s ‘Wild Wednesday’ summer reading event held on July 14 and 15, has been canceled due to transphobia and threats.
“What I was offering for the Gillette community was a complete family show," Oz told the outlet. "It was a hundred percent age-appropriate.” In describing her show, Oz said it includes a bird named Bubbles. Pretty standard stuff for young kids. Even still, according to Oz, someone from the community realized she was openly trans while doing research on the summer events held at the library, and from there, things exploded. Thankfully, according to Oz, the library staff was encouraging and supportive in spite of anti-trans backlash.
“They called me to let me know that there might be protests,” Oz explained to the outlet. “I was like, 'Okay, I've never had this happen before, but as long as the safety of myself and the community is okay, I'll still come and do the shows.'" Then, an anonymous man called her and told her she wasn’t welcome and said there would be “issues” if she came to town.
Then came threatening emails. “You ain’t f--king welcome in Gillette,” one message reportedly said.
Then: Her decision to cancel the show. "Even if it was just protests,” Oz said, citing safety concerns for herself and others. “I can't imagine the kids having to walk in through these angry adults yelling and holding up signs."
In speaking to Newsweek, Oz expressed feeling “disappointed” as she performs a family-friendly show with “no mention of me being a woman of a trans experience anywhere in my family show.” She told the outlet her gender identity should never been brought up in the first place, as it wasn’t relevant to the event.
The library also posted about the cancellation and threats on its Facebook page. "With great regret,” the post reads in part, “shared by Campbell County Public Library System, Oz canceled her programs in Gillette and Wright due to safety concerns for herself, library staff, and library patrons. Oz's transgender identity was shared on a social media post made by a Gillette citizen. From there, misinformation about the performances was spread via social media and a call to protest the events was made by a group of citizens. The cancellation came after threats were made directly to Oz and to library staff."
Library director Terri Lesley told the Gilette News Record a man not known to the library staff walked in and made threatening comments as well.
“I don’t have the exact verbiage that was used,” Lesley told the publication. “But it made the circulation desk staff uncomfortable and worried. He walked in, made a statement, and walked out about, you know, ‘You should close the library; it’s not safe here’ type of statement.”
Lesley added to the outlet that the library didn’t know Oz’s gender identity when booking her for the event, but stressed that it didn’t (and shouldn’t) matter. “That’s not what we’re about here in America,” she added.
You can check out a recording of one of Oz’s library events via YouTube below, featuring, among other things, Bubbles the bird.