In December 2017, the Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods became the first community in Michigan to have a Drag Queen Storytime. Every month Raven Cassidine, Miss Motor City Pride 2017, reads to preschool and elementary school children. The Huntington Woods Public Library is one of a growing number of venues around the country to host these unique events.
“Drag Queen Storytime is just what it sounds like —” writes the library, “drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores. DQS captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” (tinyurl.com/ycvwa57x)
The story hours have been well-attended and are popular with both children and parents.
Cassidine, an African-American drag queen who grew up in Huntington Woods — which is 96 percent white — described her involvement as a “homecoming.” She was nervous before the first reading, telling the children, “There’s a lot of little people in this room and it made me nervous. I didn’t know if you guys were going to like me or not. Do you like me?” The children applauded, yelled “Yay” and hugged the storyteller. (Between the Lines, Dec. 19)
Reacting to the program’s success, a right-wing campaign is aimed at shutting down DQS or making it an “adult” event forbidden to children. In other parts of the country, the campaign even disrupted story hours. Here, Huntington Woods City Commissioner Allison Iversen attacked DQS for “provocative, controversial, ‘unabashedly queer’ demonstrations of diversity.” Iversen acted in concert with Mass Resistance, an out-of-state hate group that has also attempted to shut down DQS in New York and Alaska.
The City Commission announced that the issue would be discussed at its Dec. 18 meeting, where public comment was allowed. It was clear before the meeting that there would be mass support for DQS. When the meeting began, however, there was an empty seat at the table where the Commissioners sit. Iversen had resigned abruptly after seeing how unpopular her position was.
The chambers were packed to overflowing. Only five people spoke against DQS; four of them were not even Huntington Woods residents. In a resounding victory against transphobia and racism, the Commission voted unanimously to continue the monthly story hour.
It remains to be seen if the humiliated bigots will follow through on announced plans to picket DQS on Jan. 26. In any case the Commission vote demonstrates that, even with the current political makeup in Washington and the Michigan state house, the LGBTQ+ community can score a win.