When it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, protections, and equality, we all know how important it is to stay with the long-term battle in terms of federal and state-level actions. Unfortunately, many of us also know how long the road to actual acceptance can be, and that even if folks technically have protections, it doesn't mean people in their community are actually safe or supportive. Hate crime statistics—which may be underreported, especially for folks of color or sex workers, for example, who may be more reluctant to go to the police to begin with—speak for themselves. But even the threat of violence can do serious harm when it comes to keeping folks out of the public eye.
One example? The Lincoln’s Children Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, recently had to cancel a private event scheduled for the museum after receiving an “overwhelming” number of online threats—including death threats—made after news about a Drag Queen Story Hour got out, as reported by LGBTQ Nation.
As the name suggests, Drag Queen Story Hour involves drag queens reading stories to kids in libraries, bookstores, or schools. The idea behind this national program is that it helps kids see people who live outside of strict gender roles and restrictions, which can help normalize diversity and show kids that the world is not quite as limiting and narrow as they might be led to believe just by mainstream exposure. Kids also generally love dress-up and playing pretend, so even if they don’t “get” the nuances of what it means to be in drag, it’s easy to see why it’s a fun, age-appropriate event for little ones.
To give you an idea of what sort of content this chapter puts out, as shared on the organization’s YouTube channel, here’s a video from March 2020 when a drag queen talked to kids about how to wash their hands. Given the state of the pandemic, this is probably a lesson plenty of adults could use, too.
The canceled storytelling event was scheduled for July 24 and had about 50 people planning to attend. During the event, the museum would be otherwise closed to the public.
In speaking to the Lincoln Journal Star, Waylon Werner-Bassen, who started the Nebraska chapter of the program, stressed that the event was meant to celebrate LGBTQ+ families and show them the state was a safe place for them to be. The event was going to include books that reflected LGBTQ+ families.
“Over the past few days the Lincoln Children’s Museum and event host OutNebraska have both received an overwhelming number of threats of violence against our organisations, many going so far as death threats,” the museum shared in an Instagram post, adding that it is an equal opportunity facility and “supports inclusivity.”
“Cancelling this event and not having the children in our building to create, discover, and learn through the power of play breaks our heart,” the post continued. “But the safety of ALL of our visitors, our staff, our exhibits and our building is and always will be our priority.”
OutNebraska, the organization coordinating the event with the museum, said it plans to reschedule and host the event another time, but will not include a public invitation. In a Facebook post, the organization said, “it’s so sad when hate threatens families with children. All parents want their children to be safe.”
Leirion Gaylor Baird, the mayor of Lincoln, shared a written statement on Twitter addressing the threats on July 27, saying: “Playing politics with people’s lives is never acceptable.” Baird added that all threats are under investigation by the Lincoln Police Department.
If this all sounds a little familiar, that’s probably because it isn’t the first time an event for kids has been canceled due to threats in recent weeks. For example, as Daily Kos covered at the time, in mid-July an openly trans magician had to cancel her event at a Wyoming public library after threats came in. Back in 2019, an armed Trump supporter was actually removed from a library in Texas after protesting a storytime with drag queens. And on a more heartwarming note, 500 people attended a storytime hosted by drag queens in California after word got out that people were planning to come and protest the event.