Anti-LGBTQ bigots continue to threaten drag queen story hours across country – but bookstores are fighting book.
The LGBTQ-owned Montana Book Company – located in Helena – refused to cancel its Drag Story Hour in July after a member of the far-right militia group, Oath Keepers, threatened on social media to “shut this demonic preying on children down.”
Instead, The Guardian reports, the bookstore owners, Chelsia Rice and Charlie Crawford, mobilized as much protection and support as possible so the event could go on.
Rice and Crawford posted to the bookstore’s Instagram page asking for as many people as possible to show up to the event. And one of the queens, Julie Yard of the drag trio Mister Sisters, appealed to the crowds at other events where she was performing.
“I said, what we really need to do now is we need a colossal showing of support,” Yard said. “And [I told them] no matter how many of them show up, I want us to outnumber them 200 to one. And just the whole crowd erupted in cheers.”
On the day of the event, groups of veterans and former law enforcement officers, in addition to about one hundred community supporters, showed up to protect the bookstore.
It wasn’t too surprising that all this help showed up. The bookstore has become a beloved safe space in Helena, a city that is on the more conservative side.
“Not many people realize they’re so much more than a bookstore,” said Kai Bauer, a veteran who showed up to help. “They are a safe haven for a lot of young people…It’s a safe place for so many folks.”
Jim Thomas, a veteran and retired police officer, also came to support the event.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to stand up and help where we can, if we can,” he said. “I don’t wear dresses and I’m not gay. But you know what?…I’m here supporting you guys.”
Draped in Pride gear, the supporters protected the entrance to the bookstore while playing music and dancing. Across from them were less than a dozen anti-LGBTQ protestors.
The bookstore’s allies used an air horn to drown out their cries about the “morally reprehensible” acts taking place.
Meanwhile, inside the bookstore, the Mister Sisters entertained the kids without a hitch.
After the event, Crawford took to Instagram to thank everyone for their help.
“I grew up in Helena, and let me tell you how much this place has changed. I felt truly alone here as a baby gay in the late 80s/early 90s and to see the support, and the number of folks who come to Pride events, the flags, the signs, homes with all of it up…makes me so happy for the young and new members of the queer community. I hope we continue to make sure they are not alone!”
Thomas also expressed his pride in helping out.
“I kind of felt a little proud, like I was on the right side of history. I wasn’t on the cruel, ugly, hateful side. I was on the happy, loving, fun side.”
Drag queen story hours have become a target of far-right extremists who believe any interaction between drag queens and children is somehow “grooming” and “abuse.”
In June a group of men displaying Proud Boy colors stormed a California Drag Queen Story Hour shouting homophobic and transphobic threats after anti-LGBTQ online activist Chaya Raichik – who runs the anti-LGBTQ LibsofTikTok account – posted information about the event online.
And in May, an Air Force base cancelled its own Drag Queen Story Hour in response to a request from anti-LGBTQ Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who stated that “the last thing parents serving their nation overseas should be worried about, particularly in a theater with heightened geopolitical tensions, is whether their children are being exposed to sexually charged content.”
And this month, Boise Pride had to cancel a half-hour “Drag Kids” event after its producers started receiving death threats.