Protest or Be Entertained, Drag Queen Story Hour is Here to Stay

Doug McLean /
Doug McLean /

It started in San Francisco, like so many awful ideas do, in 2015. It now is a nonprofit organization upholding the rights of toddlers who want to hear their favorite stories read by a man in a dress. Welcome to Drag Story Hour, a movement founded (per the DSH website) to “capture the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood” and to give kids “glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.”

Looks like in libraries across the country, “The Little Engine That Could” has become a train wreck in heels. Not content with destroying libraries, the movement has spread to schools and bookstores from coast to glittering, eyeshadow-wearing coast.

And yet, there is something about a man in drag that captures the attention, much like a horrible movie that you can’t turn off because you’re already halfway through and fully committed. You keep watching, hoping somehow it will get better.

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t ever get better.

Anywhere there is controversy, there are protestors and supporters. Drag Story Hour is no different because both supporters and protestors are equally energized and passionate about their position. Sadly, many of these protests end in violence which is heartbreaking for those involved as well as the children who witness it.

The truth is that most conservatives across the U.S. don’t have a problem with a man wearing a dress and living their best life. The problem arises when toddlers and young children aged eight and under are encouraged, and in some cases forced, to watch the show. It isn’t the idea of drag that is bothersome to those on the right; it’s the concept of teaching young children about sexuality in any form.

Adults are welcome to join in the fun of watching children start their first toddling steps along their journey to life-long therapy, and if having the memory of your favorite childhood book ruined forever isn’t appealing, you’ll be happy to know that the nonprofit DSH also provides entertainment for employee events and bingo.

This brings a bigger question to mind: Are more people attending drag queen story hours to protest them or to be entertained? After all, drag is nothing new. Long before Ru Paul’s Drag Race, male actors were taking the Shakespearean stage in full drag because women weren’t allowed to perform. J. Edgar Hoover’s secret passion for drag resulted in his abuse of power to meet blackmail demands of the same crime families he was tasked to destroy. And millions of moviegoers were entranced by the larger-than-life performance of Divine in the cult classic, “Hairspray.”

In a 2019 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, contributor Charlotte Allen shared her experience at a Drag Queen Story Hour. She explains:

“The adults present loved Drag Queen Story Hour. They laughed at Venus’s jokes, and they sang the children’s songs along with her, rolling their hands and shaking their fingers Hokey Pokey-style as she did. When she stuck out her tongue during a ditty about a frog, so did the mothers and fathers. It was the children who didn’t react at all. They either stared transfixed at Venus, squirmed restlessly, or crawled and toddled off to find their own entertainments.”

So, if the point of Drag Queen Story Hour is lost on the kids, the only audience left is the adults who brought them there in the first place. And yes, they will enjoy the show. Drag queens are entertaining for those who are old enough to appreciate them.

This adult-targeted angle sheds new light on the underlying motives of some protestors.

They’ll pick up their signs and hit the sidewalks after asking, “Just one more story. Please?”