Imagine taking your child to the local library to hear a Disney princess read to them.
The princess is decked out from head to toe and looks exactly like your child’s favourite princess. The princess reads children’s books on fairy princesses, families and bears.
Suddenly the storytime is interrupted by a noise from outside. You turn your head and see a group of people yelling angrily and holding signs outside the library. They are protesting the storytime.
This is not likely to happen at a Disney princess storytime, but there have been several protests recently in Canada outside of drag queen events that include children.
Some would argue that there is a difference between a Disney princess reading to their child and a drag queen. I am not here to change people’s minds, we are all entitled to our opinions. Where I draw the line is when those opinions hurt other people. It is one thing to not want to take your child to a drag queen storytime, but completely something else to protest at them.
Surrey Pride Society president Martin Rooney told the Now-Leader that what is often not discussed is how potentially upsetting those protests are for the children attending the storytime. These kids come to the library expecting to be entertained. Instead, they are met with anger and often hatred.
Rooney said families often go to pantomimes where the lead character is normally in drag, and everyone has a good time, and there are no protests. It is seen as entertainment. The same should be for drag queen storytime.
“It is their form of art and their way of uniting a community and offering the kind an opportunity to simply be a kid,” said Rooney.
There needs to be a shift in thinking in how people view drag – it is a form of theatre and entertainment, Rooney added.
The topic of grooming is often brought up in connection to these storytimes. Some say drag queens are grooming and recruiting children. But Rooney said you could not recruit someone to be gay.
Chilliwack’s Kile Brown told the Now-Leader that drag queens are reading to kids simply because they want to encourage them to read.
Brown has been a drag queen for 12 years and has taken part in many storytimes. In his experience, kids love these storytimes. The reaction from the kids is similar to seeing their favourite Disney princess, he says.
“There’s always you know, the ignorant people that think that we’re trying to groom the children by teaching them to not judge their neighbour who’s got two dads,” said Brown. “I push reading like people think we push grooming.”
These storytimes are a great time for kids to have some fun while listening to someone dressed up in beautiful and child-appropriate clothing. I think children will be a huge part of normalizing what society has thought to be “off” or wrong for so long.
Whether you are a drag queen, straight, gay, trans, bi, non-binary or questioning, it should be normal. These storytimes can help show kids that you can grow up to be whoever they want. The possibilities are endless and that is OK.
But we have a ways to go. Any time we post a story on the Now-Leader’s Facebook page about this, our comment section explodes within minutes. For example, last week, after posting a story on a Kelowna drag queen, we had to turn off the comments on that post in less than 30 minutes because they were getting so hateful.
Why is it in 2023 that people are so vocal about a drag queen reading children’s books to their kids?
As Rooney told the Now-Leader, I think it is time for protesters to take a good hard look at the why. Why are they protesting, and is there evidence to support their reasoning? For example, do you know a drag queen who is grooming children? Or does this event just go against what you might be used to and the status quo?
Surrey Pride is planning to have drag queen storytime of its own. It is expected to take place in a public space in Surrey during pride month.
Jenny Fry, director of programs at Surrey Library, stated in an email to the Now-Leader that the Guildford branch offered Drag Queen storytime in 2017, but the staff planning the event were targeted online with hateful comments. They have also hosted Rainbow Storytimes over the years.
These are LGBTQ+-themed storytimes organized by LGBTQ+ staff. This stopped due to the pandemic, but they are exploring bringing this back in 2023.
How about you, would you take your child to a drag queen storytime or rainbow storytime?
Anna Burns is a staff writer with the Now-Leader. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org