Despite threats of violence toward a similar event just a few months ago, WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center is set to hold a Drag Queen Storytime event Thursday night in the Mountainlair’s Gluck Theatre.
Cris Mayo, LGBTQ+ Center director, said the Center was not terribly concerned when planning the event.
“Prominent people in our community who instigated violence have backtracked,” Mayo said. “They have not apologized. They are pretending they did not do it.”
Although Mayo has had to heavily curate the Center’s Facebook page to remove hurtful messages from the eyes of those seeking information about the event and inclusion, Mayo believes the end result of Drag Queen Storytime will prove worth enduring negativity.
“We think it is important that every time there is hate, we just bring in love at a higher volume,” Mayo said. “When haters hate, we come back with love, and we come back with education and we come back with a message of inclusion because that’s who we are.”
After the cancellation of their previously scheduled event at the Morgantown Library, Mayo said drag queens Dimitria Blackwell and Robin Hearts-Love had a few concerns with coming back. However, the message of inclusivity paired with the resources WVU could offer brought them back.
“They’ve got such positive reinforcement with so many people,” Mayo said. “We can offer infrastructure that enforces the freedom of speech, the importance of learning to read and the importance of reading to your kids. I think they felt we were able to frame the issue and provide support.”
Starting at 6 p.m., there will be a 45-minute book reading, during which Dimitria Blackwell and Robin Hearts-Love will read two classic children’s books: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Stellaluna.”
At 6:45 p.m., a 15-minute intermission will begin, and volunteer students will read LGBTQ+ children’s books.
Following the intermission, the drag queens will return to the stage and perform a show, which will be followed by a question and answer session.
Mayo said the LGBTQ+ Center is an academic and advocacy unit.
“We take learning very seriously, and we want to highlight other people in our community,” Mayo said. “As a subset, we want our community to learn more about the diversity around us.”
Besides enjoying the experience, Mayo also hopes participants will learn more about the people around them.
“There are a lot of haters in this state saying negative things about trans people and negative things about drag queens, not understanding that there was a long tradition in both trans and drag communities of doing charitable work, community improvement work and really pushing the importance of learning,” Mayo said.
Ultimately, Mayo wants children to see WVU as a wonderful place where inclusivity, acceptance and individuality are celebrated on a normal basis.
“We want to show that WVU is an inclusive place. Sometimes in our state there are people who are not inclusive, and that’s the purpose of higher education,” Mayo said.