A Drag Queen Story Hour event held at Cellar Door Books in Riverside, California, on October 27 was disrupted by two people opposed to the event.
Drag Queen Story Hours, during which drag queens read stories to children in an effort to, as the organization’s website explains, “give kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models,” have been held at bookstores, schools, and libraries around the country. Drag Queen Story Hour aims to provide children with spaces to “see people who defy gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish.”
Cellar Door owner Linda Sherman-Nurick told the American Booksellers Association that she believes these kinds of events “are critical opportunities to celebrate our common humanity, erasing fear and hatred — and we must continue them no matter who tries to shout us down.”
Cellar Door’s first Drag Queen Story Hour was held in June in celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month. According to Sherman-Nurick, “Parents and kids loved the lively performance and kept asking when we would coordinate another.”
According to Sherman-Nurick, parents brought their children to the story hour in October to hear drag queens read Halloween-themed stories, an event that was held as scheduled, despite phone calls during the days prior saying that Cellar Door should not host the event.
During the reading, Sherman-Nurick noticed a woman recording video and informed her that she could not film the children without their parents’ consent. In response, the woman, Genevieve Peters, “started spewing hateful rhetoric about everything from the LGBTQ community to politics and refused to leave,” said Sherman-Nurick.
Peters was asked to leave by Sherman-Nurick and many parents, but she refused. According to NBC4 Los Angeles, when parents asked her to stop the aggressive show of homophobia in front of their children, she responded, “That’s what you get. This is our nation’s children, you have no right to tell us about our children.” Ultimately, a Riverside police officer had to escort Peters out of the bookstore.
“This is about saying, ‘You know what, this is a perverse lifestyle and if you choose it it’s your business,’” Peters told NBC, “but we as Americans can choose not to agree with it.”
Since the confrontation, the store has received threatening and anti-LGBTQ phone calls, e-mails, and social media messages. In spite of this response, Sherman-Nurick remains optimistic about Drag Queen Story Hour’s ability to “bring people together so that hatred of the ‘other’ disappears…Our kids will grow up knowing that no matter how they identify, they will be loved and welcomed into our community — and will treat others the same.”
She recounted an interaction from Cellar Door’s first Drag Queen Story Hour: “One of the kids said, ‘My little brother likes to dress in my mom’s clothes.’ One of the drag queens lovingly responded, ‘And that’s okay.’”
Cellar Door Books will hold its next Drag Queen Story Hour on December 15.