On Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL) hosted a Drag Storytime and Costume Ball. Drag Storytime is a voluntary program that provides educational opportunities and fun, enriching experiences to families with children of all ages. The City of Iowa City Human Rights Commission believes this programming strongly aligns with ICPL’s values of access, belonging, collaboration, and community. Though many drag storytime events have been hosted by ICPL since 2018, the Oct. 15 storytime was the first to be attended by a group of protesters.
According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the group:
- Carried signs accusing the library of “grooming” children
- Verbally insulted the event, the performers, and attendees
- Stood in the room during the event holding signs and not participating in the activity
Members of this Commission believe in the right to protest and to express opposing viewpoints. While this protest was a lawful one, the group’s purpose seems to have gone beyond the protest of a program with an opposing viewpoint. Tactics were deployed with the intent to insult, intimidate, and disrupt a children’s story hour. Parents who attended the program stated that the presence and behavior of this group of adults prevented the children and their families from the full and equal enjoyment of the library’s services.
We believe the actions of the protesters and the manner in which they displayed their opinion was disruptive and disrespectful, as well as harmful to LGBTQ+ members of our community.
One of the duties of the Human Rights Commission is to educate the public on human rights and discrimination. Drag queen storytime is a platform for sharing the beauty and importance of diversity, inclusivity, and belonging. Humans are not born to hate. We are taught to hate. One of the best ways to overcome hatred is by learning about and engaging with the diverse people who surround us in the world. Drag storytime does not teach children to challenge their identity. It simply teaches them to accept that some people do.
The rate of suicide among LGBTQ+ youth is significantly higher than that of their straight and cisgender peers, with the rates even higher among LGBTQ+ youth of color. The main cause is bullying and a lack of acceptance from their peers. Events like drag queen storytime combat harmful norms by teaching kids to accept and embrace the differences in others. Lessons of compassion, empathy, understanding and a love of reading are immensely valuable in our community and the world at large.
The Iowa City Human Rights Commission affirms the following:
- Members of this Commission wholeheartedly support the programming of the Iowa City Public Library and its efforts to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment, especially for events designed for our youngest residents.
- All residents of Iowa City have the right to enjoy the services provided by the library without fear of intimidation, verbal insults, or enduring a hostile and disruptive environment.
- We support the library’s drag storytime events and any programs that promote learning and acceptance.
- Members of our community have a right to feel safe and welcome at all public events.
- The City of Iowa City is a diverse and inclusive community and this type of hate and intolerance is unwelcome. It is especially abhorrent that this protest took place at an event specifically designed to celebrate our diversity, promote learning, and foster acceptance.
Members of this Commission encourage residents to show their support for ICPL’s Drag Storytime events, as well as other events that promote diversity, equity, inclusivity, and belonging in our community. Furthermore, as it is LGBTQ History Month, we encourage residents to continue learning about and celebrating the many accomplishments of LGBTQ people.
If you are an LGBTQ youth struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, help is available 24/7 through The Trevor Project. Call 1-866-488-7386 or text 678-678. Adults seeking help can dial 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.