In recent times it seems entirely impossible to find adults reading, much less children.
Compass’ Youth Group is doing their due diligence to decrease those issues in Palm Beach County with its version of Drag Story Time. The event was hosted at the quaint and eclectic Book Cellar, in the heart of Lake Worth.
“We recently noticed an influx of trans and gender-non-confirming youth coming to Compass, and we wanted to have an event that demonstrated to them the inclusion and acceptance of gender fluidity and non-conformity in our community,” mentioned Rex Barnes, Youth Program Coordinator for Compass. “Our group was thrilled at the turnout of the first story time, and hope for similar crowds for the next three in the event series.”
Drag Story Time is open to the public, in addition to being open to all ages. The inaugural guest reader was spider queen Charlotte Shotgun. "I felt completely honored to be the first person to do something like this in our county. You see it on TV and online all the time but never in our area,” Charlotte said.
"It’s one of the first books I bought growing up,” Charlotte declared. "I read ‘Charlotte’s Web’ because that’s where I got my name and aesthetic from. My love for spiders developed after reading it! Charlotte read the first chapter in addition to gracing the crowd with a performance.”
LGBT activist Michelle Tea and literacy company Radar productions created drag story time in 2015. One of the first sessions occurred in San Francisco. According to a recent article from USA today, there have been several cities that have spoken out against the program. Warriors for Christ, TFP Student Actions, and Citizens for a New Louisiana recently expressed their disdain by rallying up protestors in honor of the Drag Story Time that was scheduled to occur at the Lafayette Public Library in Louisiana.
The TFP Student Action acquired over 17,000 signatures in opposition towards all drag story times held in libraries across the country. Despite the controversy, Compass is committed to creating spaces where everyone can be accepted, no matter their gender, race, age, or sexual identity.
"42 percent of LGBT youth say the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT people, according to Human Rights Campaign. Seeing a real demonstration of acceptance where they live can make a real difference in how supported they feel, and contributes to a decrease in suicidal ideation," Barnes said. "The fact that it's a story time also encourages literacy and a love of reading, it also encourages families to participate together."
SFGN had the opportunity to catch up with the Oftedal family as they were leaving the book store:
Why do you feel this event was needed?
Oftedal Family:I'd heard about Drag Queen Story Hour and was so inspired. I want our son to experience all sorts of things, to learn empathy, and to have role models of all kinds. It's important for us that our son can feel confident meeting new people, asking appropriate questions and finding the good in all sorts of cultures and communities. Especially in our country's climate, I'd like for him to grow up with an appreciation that different is great.
How did your child act during the experience?
Oftedal Family:He was excited about meeting a "Queen" and was really into the bats on Ms. Charlotte's dress and her tattoos. We have some family [members] that represent as gender nonconforming and he's questioned if so-and-so is a boy or a girl; I think this experience has aided in his toddler-level understanding that it doesn't really matter and that it's okay to kindly ask them.
What would you say to parents who are hesitant to bring their family/kids?
Oftedal Family: It's our job, as parents, to raise good humans. One of our family values is being an ally to the community. So, for us, attending and supporting events like this fit into our core family values. So, I guess I would ask parents to first identify their core family values and identify where those values come from. If you can justify taking your kid to sit on an old man's lap during Christmastime, but not listening to a drag queen read a children's story, then you're just not my people and I'm not sure there is any advice I can share on the subject. Right!?
The next Drag Story time will take place Dec. 12. For more information visit CompassGLCC.com.