After the Drag Queen Storytime was canceled because of threats of violence, members and allies of WVU’s LGBTQ+ community gathered in front of the Morgantown Library in a gesture of support.
“In order to counteract this hate, we need to show love,” said Ash Cutright, the president of Morgantown Pride, which provides resources to the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. “While the library event was canceled, [the people who sent threats] thought this was a victory. We don’t want them to think that.”
People who attended wore and carried rainbow and transgender pride flags. Some carried flags with quotes from the hit reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” like “Reading is fundamental” and “We’re born naked, the rest is drag.”
“The queer community here is very tight-knit, and I love seeing all the different representations of our queer community here today,” Cutright said. “I wanted to be here to show that as a trans person who’s received a lot of hate over the last two weeks that I’m not going to let it get to me.”
Elected officials such as city councilors Barry Wendell and Zackery Cruze and Monongalia County state delegates Barbara Evans Fleishauer and Danielle Walker were in attendance. Delegate Walker gave a speech to the crowd of around 50.
“When we like to use the motto, ‘Mountaineers are always free,’ we don’t define who those Mountaineers are. The time is now that we start living up to our name,” Walker said.
A storytime session in the library still occurred during the time it was scheduled, only with library staff members reading instead of drag queens.
Local drag performers Robin Hearts-Love and Dimitria Blackwell had decided to do the Drag Queen Storytime at the Morgantown Library to promote literacy as well as inclusion.
“I wish I had a program like this when I was younger. I was the kid who went to the public library and tried to find books on being gay or trans that I could. The library is our connection to the outside world and so are books,” Hearts-Love said.
Both drag queen readers dealt with online harassment for weeks leading up to the scheduled reading on Saturday. Dimitria Blackwell, one of the volunteer drag queen readers, said the decision to cancel was out of concern for the safety of the children that would be attending because of the violent threats that were made online.
“This cancellation has nothing to do with our safety. When somebody threatens gun violence, we can’t guarantee the safety of the children, the parents or the volunteers that were attending that event,” Blackwell said.
After the event’s cancellation, the queens decided to share their message of literacy and acceptance through YouTube. There is going to be a YouTube channel created in the near future where Blackwell and Hearts-Love will be recording their online version of Drag Queen Storytime.
Blackwell emphasized the importance of spreading their message outside of Monongalia County.
“We wanted to be a family-friendly option that takes into account the importance of literacy and the safety of all of the patrons,” Blackwell said. “You can watch it from the safety of your own home, you don’t have to walk past protesters to watch our event.”
Hearts-Love said the cancellation of the event was not a loss like the people who opposed the storytime believe it was.
“They have empowered us and inspired us to take our message to a bigger stage — to take our message where everyone could access it no matter where they are,” Hearts-Love said.