Community divided over upcoming Spokane drag queen story hour

Community divided over upcoming Spokane drag queen story hour
KGO-TV via CNN

The announcement of an event where drag queens read to Spokane children has started a community conversation about whether this story time promotes acceptance or a sexualized culture.

“Drag Queen Story Hour” (DQSH) is scheduled for June 15 at Spokane’s South Hill branch. It includes an hour-long story time with children three to eight years old. According to a release, drag queens will read diversity-themed children’s book, lead a craft activity and a dance party at the Spokane event.

Andrea Tate said she’s been working with the library for about a year to bring the program to the Inland Northwest. She saw it happened in other cities and believed it would benefit children here and promote tolerance.

“It’s really important to me that we show kids that the most important things you can grow up to be are inclusive, kind, respectful and mindful of your community and other people,” Tate said.

Tate has been doing drag for about two years now and said it’s an art form and way to express herself.

“Drag isn’t about dressing up as a girl and whatever. It’s about dispelling stereotypes. It’s about expressing the parts of yourself that society tells you is not okay to express,” Tate said.

But not everyone sees it that way.

Greenacres mother Anna Bohach called drag offensive.

“It’s been used as a tool to mock women. It’s a grotesque mockery of what it means to be a woman and femininity,” Bohach said.

She was so worried about the event that she organized a protest called 500 Mom Strong on Facebook. Her goal is to either get the event canceled or rally other moms to the event in opposition.

“I would like them to cancel the event and I would like to create awareness for people to know that drag is not something to be uplifted as if it is something cool to do. It’s just like blackface. It’s hurtful. It’s demeaning,” Bohach said.

Ann Marie Danimus, who supports the story hour, said it is innapropriate for Bohach to relate drag to blackface.

“She is literally appropriating someone else’s fight and trying to make it her own. This is hate speech under the guise of sexism and racism. It’s a completely falsified argument and it doesn’t belong in this conversation,” Danimus said.

While there are differing opinions in this conversation, Tate said she’s glad people have the right to share their opinions.

“I fully support people using their First Amendment rights,” Tate said.

She just wants those using those rights to keep calm now and during the event.

“I am really hoping that everything is peaceful. I’m really hoping that everybody is able to reach some kind of understanding on either side of it where the other person is coming from,” Tate said.

There is a community panel discussion planned at the downtown library June 13 to discuss drag queens. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. and a library spokesperson said the “panel will consist of experts and community members representing multiple perspectives on the topic.”

Both the story hour and protest are planned for June 15 at 2:00 pm at Spokane’s South Hill library branch.

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