If Republicans enjoy one task, it’s terrorizing queer kids. Sure, they like to call themselves the party of family values, but any positive connotation of the word “family” goes right out the window when that family isn’t entirely white, cisgender, and straight. Just in time for midterm elections this November, conservatives have kicked up their efforts to push anti-LGBTQ+ bills and guidelines in order to silence marginalized queer people. Examples of these efforts include, for example, trying to keep queer kids, queer families, and queer teachers in the closet with ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills and trying to mandate that public schools intentionally misgender trans youth. It’s evil.
Another ongoing effort from conservatives includes churning archaic terror over drag queens. Specifically, over drag queens reading books to kids. It’s apparently not enough for Republicans to try and get books by and about LGBTQ+ people pulled from public school classrooms and libraries, but they don’t want any drag performers reading to kids, either.
Instead, extremists would rather gather outside of these spaces, like libraries and community centers, and literally chant, yell, and intimidate attendees until families are terrified. Because if they can’t cancel these events, they want to make it too miserable for anyone to actually go. But in some instances, like a recent situation in Orlando, Florida, an LGBTQ+ center canceled a planned Drag Queen Story Hour because threats from hate groups just got to be too much, as reported by CBS News.
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Drag Queen Story Hours are, as a basic rule of thumb, an effort for and by communities to teach and entertain kids by reading. The idea is that drag performers come in drag and read to kids. The books obviously vary but are meant to be age-appropriate. Sometimes they’re explicitly queer-inclusive but they don't actually have to be. Events are often held in public spaces like parks, libraries, bookstores, classrooms, and so on. In this case, the book to be distributed to attendees was It’s Ok To Be Different by Todd Parr.
But queerphobes literally cannot control themselves when it comes to these story times. As Daily Kos has covered in the past, for example, one such story time event was canceled in Nebraska because the children’s museum hosting the event was concerned after receiving literal death threats. Threats from the far-right, including Oath Keepers, haven’t stopped all organizations from hosting such events, of course; a bookstore in Montana carried on thanks to the help of community organizers, for example, as did a library in California where more people came to protect the event than protesters.
But at the end of the day, organizers shouldn’t need to make this sort of call when it comes to people’s safety, especially not when there are kids involved.
In this case, the event was to be hosted by local drag performer Bridgette Galore and held on Saturday, Oct. 29. The event (which was scheduled for 2:00 in the afternoon, mind you, not even at night) was already sold out, according to staff. And per the Orlando Sentinel, center director George Wallace became aware of coordinated efforts to intimidate and disrupt such events by hate groups and white nationalists, including groups like the Proud Boys and White Lives Matter.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Monday, the LGBT+ Center Orlando shared in a status that they take threats “very seriously” and don’t want to “endanger or expose” families to hate.
"We have the support of so many in our community including law enforcement,” the status reads in part. “But as much as we would like to continue this fun-loving, innocent event, we feel that the safety of our community is our number one concern."
Conservatives have also come out hard against family-friendly drag shows, resulting in a similar barrage of threats and hate. Communities have countered such backlash, with armed folks and veterans literally coming to protect establishments before and during shows. This is inspiring and meaningful, of course. It’s also, again, sad and frustrating because people shouldn’t have to pull up armed with a weapon so that kids can have someone read them a story in the library or enjoy some family-friendly entertainment during brunch.
Conservatives claim to be all about family values, but what they actually value is stomping down on anyone unlike themselves.
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