On Tuesday night, a special visitor led story hour at the Downtown Library, though not everyone was pleased with the selection of guest.
Vivian Versace, a drag queen of eight years, spent almost an hour reading books with messages about gender diversity and gender performance.
“I thought it would be a really good thing for the community, and I wanted to do something for the community to give back in some sort of way because I feel like this is something that our community needed,” Versace said. “It’s really been a beautiful thing to see and watch the community come together.”
As Versace entered the designated storytime room on Tuesday evening, she saw children and parents from wall to wall, with some who could not squeeze into the space peeking in from the next room.
“I thought it was amazing,” Versace said. “I mean, there wasn’t room for an extra body at all, and just the turnout and all the kids that wanted to come, I thought it was absolutely amazing.”
And while a Versace read books like “Jack not Jackie” and “Not all Princesses Dress in Pink,” outside a battle that began online with countering petitions brought protesters to the streets.
A Catholic group called America needs Fatima traveled to the St. Joseph Public Library in buses from as far as Topeka, Kansas, to stand against the event and pray the rosary as the story hour progressed. Franics Slobodnik, leader of the group, said that the religious protesters have gone to other Drag Queen Story Hours around the Midwest.
“Well, we want to do first of all is pray and reparation repair, because we believe that these rankling story hours are grave offenses against God and the innocence of children,” said Slobodnik. “We believe that causing gender confusion in a child’s mind is really child abuse. They’re not old enough to consent to things like that, and so as a result, confusion is going to be created in their mind about their nature and who they are.”
On the other side, citizens from St. Joseph gathered to show their support for the event, handing out fliers with hearts and singing songs. Derek Evan, creator of what he called a celebration of diversity, said he wanted to encourage more diversity by showing support for events like the Drag Queen Story Hour.
“We wanted to show support for library, we wanted to show support for performers, and we wanted to show support for these sorts of events that make everybody feel like they’re together,” Evans said. “We’re here to show support and unity of this celebration of diversity, nothing antagonistic.”
While emotions were running high with some taking their concerns to the pavement, no violence occurred during the event. Between those sharing their views and those coming to listen to story hour, more than 500 visitors were at the Downtown Library on Tuesday evening.