It was just another Saturday afternoon children’s storytime at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library, even if in plenty of communities other than Juneau the unremarkable joviality of such an event would have been very big news indeed.
Six Drag Storytime presenters, one of them 11 years old, sang and read books such as “And Tango Makes Three” and “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish” to about 25 children and parents.
The story tellers shared a handful of messages about acceptance such as when drag performer Evan Handsome near the end of a story asked the audience members how many people like ice cream.
“We can have differences from each other, but I think we can agree that dairy products are all just wonderful,” the performer said.
The children in the audience laughed at the stage antics during the readings, danced with the presenters in a music bash toward the end, and got their faces painted and asked to take selfies with the storytellers during a gathering outside afterward.
“I think people are starting to be a little more adaptable and understanding of the concept of drag storytime,” said Christina Lee, a member of Juneau Drag who didn’t participate in Saturday’s readings, but brought her daughter Azalea, 5, to the event. “I believe there’s good purpose and intention for what the drag queens do.”
Sharply different opinions are getting national notice elsewhere, as activist groups and politicians are targeting drag performers at libraries and elsewhere as inappropriate for children. Such objections were raised in Haines about a Juneau Drag performance at the Southeast Alaska State Fair the weekend before the library event, although ultimately an all-ages crowd of hundreds attended the two-hour show.
Some of those at Saturday’s storytime, such as five-month-old Fern Adams, were too young to understand any of the controversies involving drag performers, but her mother, Holly, said “she really to really love the music, dancing and colors,” and hopes coming back to such storytimes as her daughter grows older will help develop bonds between them.
“I think that events like this just tell her that I am going to love her no matter who she chooses to be,” she said.