In recent weeks, as part of a renewed far-right and transphobic backlash against LGBTQ communities, protesters have been trying to shut down drag queen ‘story time’ events for children. Simon Donohoe reports from a successful counter-protest outside the Millennium Library in Norwich.
Drag Queen Story Time in the US. Photo: Jonathan Moore, City of West Hollywood. Creative Commons
In recent years, drag performers have entered the mainstream through TV shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. For far longer than that, drag queens have been a mainstay of LGBTQ culture, especially gay culture, frequently performing at gay venues across the country. Drag has also been a perennial part of children’s entertainment, including in pantomimes, where the cross-dressing ‘pantomime dame’ is an integral part of the act.
A few weeks ago, around fifteen protestors stood outside North Walsham library in Norfolk to protest a ‘drag queen story time’ event featuring performer Titania Trust. Unfortunately the library took the decision to cancel the event, citing safety concerns. There have been similar protests across the country recently organised by various right-wing groups. They have been spreading the message that drag queens are a danger to children, accusing them of ‘grooming’.
A drag queen story time was planned yesterday at the Millennium Library in Norwich. People became aware that protests were planned and spread the message on social media. A counter protest was organised, and by midday, several hundred people had turned up to support the story time event. No more than 30 people turned up to protest against it. They gave out leaflets to the public, but most people going into the library ended up screwing up their leaflets and throwing them away, which was a joy to see.
A safe passage was made for families to enter the event. As they entered, a big cheer went up from the crowd. The event protesters booed the families – so much for claiming to protect children. After a couple of hours, a group of about a dozen people from the openly fascist group Patriotic Alternative turned up with a banner and placards. There was a bit of a stand-off, as neither the fascists nor ourselves were prepared to leave the protest first. Eventually the fascists left, but then attempted to rally at city hall. We therefore followed them to ensure they left the city. Unfortunately, the police blocked our path.
Overall, the day was very inspiring. We made it clear through force of numbers that we will not allow right-wing protestors, including hardcore fascists, to intimidate drag story time events.