Organization Trends

The Battle over Drag Queen Story Hour

I remember my young mom taking me to the local library for story hour. It was the mid-1980s, and story hour consisted mainly of older women in clunky, yet comfortable shoes reading to about a dozen wiggly kids sitting cross-legged on the carpet, with the parents watching nearby from their chairs. It was as innocent and sweet as it gets when it comes to free children’s activities. I remember singing songs with jingly instruments and having an overall wholesome time.

Fast forward to 2024, where many major cities and left-leaning small towns host the very popular and very controversial Drag Queen Story Hours at publicly funded libraries. Instead of a sweet older woman in glasses, the reader is now a man in pounds of clown-style makeup, a colorful outfit usually featuring size 12 platform heels, and some sort of fishnet tights. Rather than reading books about bears, the man with overdrawn red lips reads The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish, encouraging the children to stand up and gyrate their hips in a “swish, swish, swish” along with the book. Still innocent, right? Right-wing fanatics have absolutely nothing to protest about. These are just grown men in rainbow-colored dresses having fun with kids. Or is it?

The Spread of Drag Queen Story Hour

The Associated Press (AP) “fact-check” article sounds so definitive:

 CLAIM: The head of Drag Queen Story Hour was arrested for child pornography.

Well, that settles it, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

The point of contention really hinges on one word in a National Pulse article, which runs: “Brett Blomme—a former head of the Cream City LGBTQ+ Foundation, which runs a Drag Queen Story Hour program—was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography.” However, according to fact-checkers, Blomme didn’t run the Drag Queen Story Hour program; instead, he was just the head of Cream City LGBTQ+ Foundation, and that foundation fiscally sponsored Drag Queen Story Hour. So, we are to believe the head of the nonprofit, which collected tax-exempt donations to fund Drag Queen Story Hour, had zero influence on how Drag Queen Story Hour operated. Maybe, but what hard evidence is this unlikely claim based on? The denial of Drag Queen Story Hour after Blomme’s arrest. That’s it. Their word is taken at face value as accurate, and voila! they are absolved of all possible negative connections to Blomme’s crimes.

Now, whether you believe Drag Queen Story Hour’s denial or not, this story illustrates why the growing trend of drag queens reading to children is so controversial and why so many people are alarmed. Whatever you think about Drag Queen Story Hour, the trend is not going away, nor is the battle around it.

And it’s not just in blue states. The events are spreading everywhere, “moving out of the big cities and coming to conservative southern U.S. states” and even the Bible Belt. In Vermont, for example, a grant was explicitly given to push these shows into libraries in small rural towns.

They are organized and well-funded. Drag Story Hour NYC’s website claims it is a “proud member of the Drag Queen Story Hour global network,” now renamed Drag Story Hour. Drag Story Hour NYC receives donations from groups such as the Berger Family Foundation, a nonprofit grantmaking organization with assets over $24 million and the even larger Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, which had $48 billion in assets in 2022.

The pushback has also been significant. At least 15 states have considered legislation to block these “burlesque”  reading shows where minors are the target audience. Protesters often follow the shows. But the battle continues back and forth. A district judge recently blocked Florida’s law against drag queen story hours. Psychology Today jumped into the fray to do damage control for the cause, claiming that the fears of parents and concerned citizens are “unfounded and based largely on hatred.”

Restoring Sanity, Protecting Children

There was a time in this country when you didn’t have to explain why you were suspicious of a non-relative adult male who wanted to, say, for example, babysit your children. It was just commonsense that it was probably a bad idea. Nowadays, because people are being forced to give an uncomfortable explanation for what used to be generally understood without articulating it. They are hesitant to do so and risk offend anyone, so commonsense is thrown out the window.

There was a time when no new laws would be needed to stop such burlesque shows in front of children. Existing laws would’ve been enough. Local sheriffs would’ve ended it quickly. I can imagine the charges if this happened in the early 20th century: “Lewd acts in front of minors,” or something to that effect.

Today, a struggle that would have ended before it started in the past rages on. On one side are national nonprofit organizations, activist judges, and big donor funding, and on the other are outraged parents and state legislatures. How will this battle end?

Two things are necessary for sanity to be restored. First, concerned citizens need to place the welfare of children above the feelings of adults and say uncomfortable things. Second, red state leaders must use the power that our Founders gave them and stop pretending this country was designed to be ruled by unelected federal judges. Challenge the courts and enforce commonsense laws.

If this country and our leaders do not have the moral conviction to do whatever is necessary to protect the innocence of our children, God have mercy on us.

Tags:  children, LBGT

Kali Fontanilla

Kali is serving as CRC’s Senior fellow, particularly focusing on topics related to K-12 public education. She has 15 years of experience as a credentialed educator working in public and…
+ More by Kali Fontanilla

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