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Protest seeks to stop US libraries supporting Drag Queen Story Hour

Nearly 100,000 Christians have signed a petition to the American Library Association protesting against its support of “Drag Queen Story Hour”, but the ALA has said it “strongly opposes any effort to limit access to information, ideas and programmes that patrons wish to explore”.

First established in San Francisco in 2015 by the writer Michelle Tea, Drag Queen Story Hour, in which drag queens read stories to children in libraries and bookshops, is intended to “give kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models”. It has spread across the US and internationally, but has drawn fire from conservative groups. In June, a Denver bookshop was targeted by far-right groups for hosting a story time, while Republican Larry Householder has attacked Ohio’s libraries for using taxpayers’ “hard-earned dollars” to “teach teenage boys how to become drag queens”.

A joint petition from conservative website LifeSiteNews and anti-abortion group the Personhood Alliance has been delivered to the ALA, calling on it to “immediately STOP its promotion of this outrageous, dangerous and abusive activity in America’s libraries”. The petition said the story hours “use the library’s privileged position in the community as a source of knowledge to introduce children to sexual concepts which are well beyond their understanding”, adding that the petition was being copied to Donald Trump “with a view to stopping this outrage against children, and cutting off your funding”.

But pointing out that local libraries make policies that “fit the needs and resources of their communities”, the ALA said in a statement that it encourages libraries “to continue to strive to meet the needs of all members of the community” and would not ask libraries to stop hosting these events.

The ALA offers resources to libraries that have received “pushback” over Drag Queen Story Hour, saying that it wants to create a “more equitable, diverse, and inclusive society”, which “includes a commitment to combating marginalisation and underrepresentation within the communities served by libraries through increased understanding of the effects of historical exclusion”.

Drag Queen Story Hour quoted a children’s librarian from San Francisco Public Library, who said that after presenter Black Benatar read My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis to around 40 children, she asked them: “‘If you met a Princess Boy, would you make fun of him?’ and all the children said, ‘No!’ Then she asked them if they would ask him to play with them, and they all said, ‘Yes!’ I had tears in my eyes, it was so beautiful and moving. This programme is more important than ever.”

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