by Sydney Wiser ‘23
On October 8, at a Drag Queen Story Hour hosted by the popular local park, Brookside Gardens, families and performers were confronted by members of the far-right organization, The Proud Boys. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty reported that sixteen Proud Boys in skeleton masks stood outside the venue carrying signs that read, “Science is real, boy or girl,” and “Groomer” with a line across the word. They further harassed the drag performer by following her to her car after the show and shouting slurs. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is nothing new. As drag queens have become more mainstream, conservatives have pushed back claiming that they’re “grooming” children.
Reading storybooks is not grooming. The Proud Boys who came to Brookeside Gardens and have been terrorizing drag queen storytimes across the country use the excuse of protecting children from grooming to push their bigoted viewpoints onto others. In reality, the Proud Boys want to suppress the identities of those who confidently diverge from gender norms. If child well-being is the primary concern of these “protests,” then the effects of the intimidation tactics used should be considered. Children learn through modeling. Witnessing adults verbally harassing a drag performer teaches children to react to people who are different from them with aggression, which isn’t the lesson parents want their kids to learn when they take them to storytime.