Public Library Heat

The Downtown Branch of the St. Joseph Public Library plans to host a Drag Queen Story Hour on Sept. 10 as part of their ‘Celebrating All of Us’ series. The event lead to the creation of two petitions online, one in opposition of the event and one in support.

Drag Queen Story Hour could be seen as the liberal equivalent of the open carry movement, with the protagonists in both cases making a blunt, sometimes uncomfortable statement about a certain point of view. You may not like it, they seem to be telling us, but that’s just too bad.

With Drag Queen Story Hour, it’s a statement about tolerance and acceptance regarding gender identity and the LGBT community. That’s a laudable goal, but what’s pitched as an innocuous read-to-children movement has gotten caught up in the culture wars. St. Joseph is no different.

In hindsight, it was probably only a matter of time before this trend came to our city. At the St. Joseph Public Library’s Downtown branch next month, a drag queen who goes by the name of Vivian Versace will read two books to children, one called “Jack Not Jackie” and the other entitled “Not All Princesses Wear Pink.” Both books focus on young girls who do not accept traditional gender roles.

This is part of a St. Joseph Public Library series called “Celebrating All of Us” that seeks to build compassion and understanding of sometimes overlooked segments of society. Other programs focus on people with disabilities or physical impairments. Library officials vow to represent all members of the public, even it if makes some people uncomfortable.

There is an element of pushing the envelope here, which is why we drew the parallel with open carry, because that movement is equally divisive among some. Libraries, if they want to start a dialogue about gender and possibilities, could bring in a female boxer or a male ballet dancer. They chose a drag queen. Why?

If it is truly to foster acceptance and understanding, then Drag Queen Story Hour is something this community should support.

That said, library officials should take care to make sure this well-intentioned program doesn’t devolve into shock value or the promotion a certain lifestyle. (Promoting is different from celebrating, or simply being comfortable in your own skin). The website strikes a different tone when it talks up “the imagination of play and the gender fluidity in childhood” and the need to give children “glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models.”

One of the best things about children is ... they’re children. We’d encourage the organizers of Drag Queen Story Hour to keep the message broad, encourage children not to hate or ridicule and let them figure themselves out on another day, in their own way.

For those who remain opposed to this program, they could consider staying away from the library on this particular day. There is nothing wrong with that. If they’re really worried about bad influences, they should check their children’s phone histories.