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Trans woman’s lecture canceled due to Montana’s new drag ban

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A library in Montana has canceled a transgender Cheyenne woman guest speaker, saying that her appearance at the library could violate the state’s new drag ban.

Adria Jawort – who made headlines last year when she won a lawsuit against a conservative, straight, white male pastor who called her mentally ill – was set to speak at the Butte Public Library last Friday as part of the library’s Pride Month programming. She was going to speak about “Montana History of Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ Peoples.”

But the library canceled her appearance on Thursday afternoon. A librarian emailed her and said that the county “decided that it is too much of a legal risk to have a transgendered person in the library. I really regret this.”

Butte-Silver Bow city-county Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher cited the state’s new law, H.B. 359, which is intended to ban drag story hours. The law bans both drag queens and kings from reading in front of children. It also defines both as “a male or female performer who adopts a flamboyant or parodic” male or feminine persona “with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup.”

Gallagher still proclaimed June Pride Month at the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse that same day.

Gallagher said that he would have let the performance happen if not for the state law. “But we would be in violation of state law if we allowed this person to give her presentation,” he said. According to Jawort’s Substack, Gallagher was reportedly getting legal advice from County Attorney Eileen Joyce.

Jawort said that she testified in the state legislature against the drag ban.

“I did so by explicitly doing a little dance (it was the beginning of the dance by that robot girl in the M3GAN) and saying that this bill’s broad definition targets trans people, what I had just done would be illegal under it,” she wrote. “Then I explained First Amendment Law to them – which seemed to be beyond their comprehension.”

Jawort said that there was already going to be a police presence at her lecture on Friday because the library “had been receiving harassing calls” about it.

“Now, what we have here is like a version of 21st Century ‘masquerade laws’ used to target trans people with back in the 1950s and 60s with [SIC] to arrest them for wearing articles of clothing of the opposite ‘biological’ gender,” she wrote.

“I have never had this happen before,” Butte Library librarian Shari Curtis told the Montana Standard. “The Butte Public Library supports free speech and our LGBTQ+ community, but the county leadership overruled us.”

In 2021, pastor J.D. Hall, a former darling of the far-right wing in Montana, called Jawort a “Gothic Transvestite,” called her “mannish,” and said she was mentally ill because she is trans. He also said that she threatened state officials.

She sued him for libel and they reached a settlement involving Hall paying Jawort $250,000, retracting the libelous article from his website, and publicly apologizing to Jawort.

“I apologize to Adrian Jawort,” Hall’s public apology in 2022 said. “The information I published about Adrian was false. Adrian did not threaten or harass Senator Butch Gillespie. I regret the error and sincerely apologize to Adrian for publishing it.”

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