On Saturday, June 2nd, Middletown, CT’s Russell Library hosted Drag Queen MIA E Z’ Lays for a story time in their activity room.
The Drag Queen Story Hour was advertised through Facebook with an event page including this description,
“Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) is just what it sounds like—drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores. DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real. Join us for Russell Library’s first ever DQSH featuring, Mia! DQSH was created by Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions in San Francisco. DQSH events occur regularly in SF, NY, and LA. For more information on DQSH, visit DragQueenStoryHour.org. For children Pre-K – 3rd grade (ages 3 – 8). Siblings and families welcome!
The event was organized by Russell Library interim associate director, Jennifer Billingsley. Billingsley shared her personal belief that gender is a construct with the Middletown Press. In regards to the event she said, “If you are letting kids know that it is OK to wear whatever clothing they want, I don’t think that’s a bad thing to be re-enforcing, no matter how they’re identifying gender wise.”
The majority of parents commenting on the event page celebrated the story hour as a means to teach kids acceptance. Other parents expressed concern that a public library would allow a Drag Queen to present ideas on defying rigid gender restrictions to children.
The Drag Queen Story Hours are marketed as events to connect children with people who ‘defy rigid gender restrictions’. When I looked at the ad for Mia I saw a man dressed seductively with a short dress, loads of makeup, and high heels. The library’s decision to use a provocative image further reinforces gender stereotypes of what ideal womanhood should look like. DQSH is supposed to give kids, ‘unabashedly queer role models’. Yet when the library promoted the event they left out the “E Z Lay’s” part of Mia’s stage name. Why withhold the full stage name of a speaker they find appropriate for 3-8 years olds to be taught by? Perhaps because it’s clear E Z Lay’s is a provocative stage name promoting a female character that’s oversexualized for children.
Would the library market an event with a biological woman dressed in a short skirt and high heels for a kids story time? I imagine parents would protest seductive images being used in an ad for a kids event. When it comes to advertising an event for children, a certain modesty is expected. Parents have a right to educate their kids as they see fit and I respect those rights. Nevertheless, I’m concerned about the ways in which we allow children to be exposed to the oversexulation of women, or in this case men.
Local parents expressed other concerns with the events. Some questioned if the Russell Library would allow a Christian with biblical views on sexuality to dress as a Bible character, reading stories sharing our values. A Meriden mother commented on social media,
“As Christians who have input their thoughts and feelings about this I wonder if we would be given the same consideration if we wanted to have a Bible reading to children in the public library? Would we be met with the same acceptance and tolerance or would we be scolded that we are indoctrinating children at a young impressionable age? Would we be accused and shamed for doing so and met with resistance?”
The Russell Library has welcomed community members to give their feedback. Questions or comments about the event or future events can be given to Jennifer Billingsley, Director of Youth and Family Learning