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Drag Queen Story Hours come to King County, but not without complaints

caption: A drag performer reads to families at a King County Library System Drag Queen Story Hour.
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A drag performer reads to families at a King County Library System Drag Queen Story Hour.
Photo courtesy of King County Library System

A nationwide trend in libraries and bookstores, drag performers reading books about diversity to kids is, to some, a fun way to introduce concepts of gender fluidity.

But others call it a hyper-sexualized form of entertainment that's inappropriate for children.

"What do drag queens and children have in common?" asks a King County Library System ad for Drag Queen Story Hour. "They love dressing up and all things sparkly and fancy!"

The library system is hosting story hours at several libraries during Pride month. Spokesperson Sarah Thomas said this is nothing like the nightclub drag shows that may come to mind.

“Drag Queen Story Hours are much different in the library environment," she said.

The performers selected to read aloud to children are carefully vetted for their experience working with young people, Thomas said, and use curriculum developed by children’s librarians, like books about inclusivity, and arts and crafts.

“It really encourages self-acceptance and discourages bullying, and kind of emphasizes reading as a fun, communal experience," Thomas said.

But Lynn Meagher says this is not who should be teaching kids. She said she considers men in female drag misogynistic, and no different from white people in blackface. While the library event may seem innocuous, Meagher said it could open the door to children learning far more than parents bargained for.

"I wonder what a little girl or boy would find when they come home from drag queen story hour and Google 'drag queens,'" Meagher said. She said KCLS has not responded to her questions about whether it does background checks on performers to make sure they aren't sexual predators.

The anti-LGBTQ-rights organization MassResistance has been mobilizing protests of drag story hours nationwide, including locally. Meagher is part of a group of "mostly moms" that she said formed out of a shared concern about the story hours.

“Libraries should be safe, happy places for children to discover the thrill of literacy and not used for any kind of social agenda,” Meagher said.

At KCLS, spokesperson Sarah Thomas said while Drag Queen Story Hours have been generally well-received, the libraries have fielded some citizen complaints this year about the decision to let drag performers read to kids.

"If families are opposed to these programs, we totally respect that, and trust that they'll make the best decisions for their families," Thomas said.

Meagher said that's ridiculous.

"If we objected to bald eagles or elephants being hunted down, should we just not hunt them ourselves, and mind our own business?" she asked.

Why you can trust KUOW