Morgantown recently had the opportunity to join the ranks of many communities offering Drag Queen Storytelling at their public libraries. Unfortunately, death threats and a barrage of hate mail led the volunteers and the library to cancel the program. Many of us watched on social media as prominent community members referred to the drag queens by offensive terms and actively encouraged the transphobia. This was not how our story was supposed to go. Encouraging hate encourages violence. Hate leads to the murders of more transwomen every year, predominantly trans women of color: this year, 91% of those killed were Black women. On Wednesday, Nov. 20, our community held a vigil at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Lair to mourn these losses during the annual Trans Day of Remembrance. Hate is a serious problem.
Programs like Drag Queen Storytelling are another way to address serious problems and to do it through the joy of reading. Sequins and picture books are a wonderful combination.
This festive good fun helps us learn: such readings let all kids know that diversity does not have to always be serious and difficult. We can just read together. Such events also teach kids, whether they are gay or straight, cis or trans, that they are welcome members of our communities. Volunteering at the library is about as down home as you can get. The long tradition of drag queen voluntarism also helps kids who are LGBTQ+ to know that they will still be able to be members of their communities.
Although this reading didn’t happen, we did learn good things about our community. Dozens came out in support of the queens and the library this past Saturday. Dimitria Blackwell and Robin Hearts-Love, not able to fulfill their original plans, started a Youtube channel devoted to reading to kids and inviting parents to view their videos first, if they have any concerns. Dozens commemorated our losses and sense of community together on Trans Day of Remembrance.
The bad parts of this story are exactly why we need drag queens to read to kids. Most of us who are LGBTQ+ knew from a young age that we were different and knew, too, that we might not be growing up in supportive communities and families. Many of us have not had adult role models who were respectful of LGBTQ+ people. LGBTQ+ youth are 2.2 times more likely to be homeless than heterosexual, cisgender youth. Trans young people raised in unsupportive families are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than trans youth raised in supportive families, schools and communities. Those stories need to change, our community needs to keep improving and we need to read together more.