A scheduled public library event where two drag queens will read to children has polarized community members in Chula Vista, where a protest against the program descended into a screaming match Thursday, according to KTLA sister station KSWB in San Diego.
Drag Queen Storytime set for Sept. 10 at the library's Civic Center branch will be an hour of stories, crafts and dancing aimed at "encouraging acceptance, being yourself, and loving who you are," the library's website says.
Since the first such event four years ago in San Francisco, children's reading hours led by drag performers have popped up at libraries nationwide — though mostly in progressive areas. Even so, they've been followed by backlash.
MassResistance, a conservative group that has campaigned against several events nationwide, held a press conference in front of the Chula Vista Library's main branch Thursday calling for the program's cancellation.
"We're here to ensure the Drag Queen story hour is canceled here in Chula Vista," organizer Arthur Schaper said. "We want it to be shut down all over the country. This is a perverse, destructive program pushing lies."
Schaper engaged in several heated discussions with attendees who challenged him on his stance. Shouts and chants frequently broke out during the news conference.
"I don't know what they think the drag queens are gonna do," one LGTBQ+ supporter said. "They're gonna wear wigs and dresses and read stories. Big deal."
Among the protesters calling for the cancellation of Drag Queen Storytime were parents who voiced concern. "This has nothing to do with ignorance, fear and hate," one mother said. "This has to do with protecting our children from being exposed."
Steve Padilla, an openly gay Chula Vista city councilmember, released a statement in support of the event.
"I am disappointed that some voices both from inside and outside our community have chosen to use the upcoming Drag Queen Storytime as an opportunity to perpetuate long discredited false and discriminatory narratives targeting the LGBTQ+ community in the name of protecting children," he wrote. "This is wrong and must be called out for what it is — the spreading of ignorance, fear, and hate."
Events elsewhere have drawn statewide attention. Earlier this year in Ohio, two libraries canceled drag events after Ohio State Speaker Larry Householder sent a letter to the state Library Council.
Householder wrote that he sees libraries as a place for debate and discussion, “But I can also assure you the taxpayers aren’t interested in seeing their hard-earned dollars being used to teach teenage boys how to become drag queens.”
In a statement, the Ohio Library Council wrote that "(w)ith such a wide spectrum of information and ideas available, it is not surprising that some programs may not align with everyone’s personal values or perspectives."
But the events were cancelled for safety after the libraries hosting them received "hostile threats," the council said.
The pushback has prompted the American Library Association to gather resources for libraries facing pressure over the events.
The Chula Vista Library is going ahead with the Sept. 10 event, and on Friday said it was being moved to the main branch to accommodate high demand.
The city provided the following statement to KGTV:
"The Chula Vista Public Library welcomes everyone, and our extensive programming includes and reflects the diverse communities we serve. Hosting drag queens to read and relate with children sends a message of acceptance and tolerance."