National News

Drag story hours continue to be targets amid conservative backlash

todayMarch 25, 2024


Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

(LANCASTER, Penn.) — Several drag queen story hours across the country have been faced with bomb threats, backlash and cancellations. On Saturday morning, Lancaster Public Library in Pennsylvania became the most recent story hour impacted by such threats.

A Lancaster City Police K-9 and Lancaster County Sheriff Deputy K-9 alerted handlers to a suspicious package inside the Lancaster Public Library during a preplanned sweep ahead of a drag story hour. Bomb threats had also been made via email with claims of explosive devices planted in the surrounding area.

After an investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police bomb squad, the scene was cleared and no explosive devices were found.

“Not only do bomb threats disrupt the peace and safety of our community, they waste valuable public resources,” said Lancaster Police Chief Richard Mendez. “Bomb threats will not be tolerated, and we are committed to identifying and prosecuting those responsible.”

Other recent drag events have also faced similar bomb threats, including story hours in Massachusetts and Minnesota, according to local reports.

Before the threat, the event faced backlash from some community members, including Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons.

He accused the event of being “not age appropriate” for children in a social media event earlier this month: “This is about the library signaling to the world that they are a fully woke, politicized organization and if you do not embrace their agenda completely, you are not welcomed at their library,” he said.

The hosts of the event, including Lancaster Pride, denied such claims, calling the event “100% family-friendly, age-appropriate.”

“They are turning something that is so innocent into something that it’s not, this is a family-friendly, fun time where we all get together and enjoy each other’s company,” Tiffany Shirley, president of Lancaster Pride told FOX43. She argues that opponents are misconstruing the event’s goal. “There’s no agenda, there is nothing indoctrinating or sexualizing in this event.”

A post for the event in Lancaster, in which a drag queen reads children’s books to attendees, states that the event “isn’t just about reading tales of wonder and imagination – it’s about celebrating diversity, fostering inclusivity, and teaching our children (and ourselves) the beautiful lesson of embracing everyone just as they are.”

Drag queen story hours have been at the center of recent conservative efforts to restrict drag events in public. In recent years, the U.S. has seen a record number of bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community — including restrictions on drag events.

However, such bans have faced legal challenges. Laws in both Texas and Tennessee were blocked, with judges citing the First Amendment and calling drag bans unconstitutional.

Supporters of drag bans say the legislation “gives confidence to parents that they can take their kids to a public or private show and will not be blindsided by a sexualized performance,” said Sen. Jack Johnson, a sponsor of the Tennessee policy, in a tweet.

Simultaneously, drag shows, events and other LGBTQ+-related programs have seen a rise in threats, hate, and backlash.

Although threats have put drag performers, event hosts, and law enforcement on high alert, many say they refuse to hide in the face of hate.

“While we support the freedom of speech: we stand firm and cannot and we will not let hate, fear, and intimidation stop our collective movement for love and support for all. Many have been asking how to help, and in truth we are still determining the best way to channel all of this incredible energy,” Lancaster Pride posted on Facebook in reaction to the event’s cancellation.

The statement continued, “Today is a deeply challenging day for us, but we remain hopeful, thankful, and more determined than ever thanks to your continued support. We will continue to create a world where understanding, acceptance, and celebration is a reality for all of us.”

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