The organizers of Drag Queen Story Time in Houston, in which performers in drag read stories to children in public libraries, have decided to call it quits.
The main reason? The threats from conservatives were putting the performers, their families, and the children who attended the events at risk.
Trent Lira and Devin Will write in Houstonia that they had good intentions when beginning their own version of a program that’s appeared in multiple cities, but things got progressively worse after protesters began attending the events last July.
At first it wasn’t too bad.
Texans Against Transgender Tyranny, they were called. They were peaceful and civil. No one inside the Freed-Montrose Library knew there were protesters outside until a patron came in and told us. It continued like this through August and September. It disturbed us, but what could we say? They were standing outside and politely informing the public that there were drag queens in there reading to children. It was their right. It was not a threat.
Then it got worse.
Protesters and counter-protesters continued to show up in great numbers. Tex Christopher continued to come to nearly every story time, watching from inside the room and waiting for any opportunity to prove what we were doing was vile. We cannot explain how it feels to put on a show while trying to avoid the stare of someone you know hates you. Another protester was arrested after he refused to leave the premises at the January event. It was discovered that he was carrying a concealed gun (he had a license). The patrons of the story time began to express concerns about safety, and the staff of the Freed-Montrose Library were threatened to such a degree that some were reassigned to different branches.
Shit really hit the fan after one performer, who did nothing wrong during the events themselves, turned out to have a past that involved child sexual abuse. Both the organizers and the library should’ve conducted a thorough background check — it’s inexcusable that they didn’t — but that mistake gave even more ammo to people who were eager to paint all drag performers as evil.
At this point, you can understand why Lira and Will are ready to move on.
… We have tried so hard to take the high road, to not stoop to mud-slinging. We have patiently listened to the people that declared we were sexualizing and molesting children. We have asked counter-protesters to be peaceful or not show up at all. We have been calm. We have been collected. But we are angry. And we are tired. And we are sick of well-intentioned but misinformed news stories that have only polarized people more. And so we wanted you to hear it from us.
… What started as a fun community event shared between us, a couple of drag queens and kings, and a few families has become a national controversy. People are being threatened. People are being hurt. We believe in what we’re doing, but we don’t believe in putting our friends, our families, or our children in danger.
And so that program will end. A program that involved reading to children and showing them that being different didn’t mean there was something wrong with you was demonized by conservatives who demand everyone fit into their tiny boxes. With their misdirected anger and hyperbolic rage, they ended a perfectly fine program.