Drag story hours are some of the most popular events offered at Hennepin County libraries, and it’s easy to see why. Kids love interacting with colorful, sparkly characters. Adults love that it teaches lessons about creativity, self-expression, and loving people who are different.
But not everyone is a fan. Minnesota Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) said as much in her Wednesday letter to the Perham Focus. Drag queens, she wrote, are not “appropriate” library programming for kids.
“It was discovered… that a drag performer who read to kids at an event in early October recently retweeted pornography on Twitter, stripped during a drag show, and openly talked about using drugs,” she wrote. “Even more disturbing are the reports that multiple known sex offenders have hosted these story times in other states.”
She called it “outrageous” that “publicly funded institutions would put on such programming.”
Franson didn’t respond to interview requests, so it’s hard to say which incidents she’s referring to. Be that as it may, hers isn’t a new argument. All you have to do is go on Twitter every time Hennepin County has another successful event to see it play out again and again.
In mid-October, the Child Protection League claimed a drag queen “flashed” kids at the Ridgedale Library, which prompted several vigilantes to call and harass librarians, and flood the queen’s Facebook page with nasty reviews. If they’d actually been there, all they would have seen was a glimpse of tan leggings when the queen bent over to pick up a book.
In April, the group targeted the Rosedale Center’s upcoming drag show, calling it an attempt to “seduce” children. Event organizer Chad Kampe pointed out it would actually be far more family-friendly than, say, “walking past a Victoria’s Secret store,” but critics weren’t convinced.
The crux here is that Franson (and a lot of other folks) seems to think that drag is something inherently dirty, or sexual, or even pedophilic. There are sexy drag queen acts, sure—and various Houston news outlets have confirmed that a registered sex offender once read to children after the library failed to do a background check.
But as several commenters on the Focus’ Facebook page pointed out, that doesn’t mean all drag is inappropriate. What a queen does on her own time and in the company of other consenting adults is her business. Nor does it mean all drag queens are predators—no more than all priests, teachers, parents, and gymnastics coaches.
“This report is baseless at best and fear-mongering at worst,” one commenter said. “The logic throughout the entire piece is flawed and based on transphobia.”
“I would have loved to have out and proud role models (drag performers or non-drag performers) when I was a kid,” another pointed out. “Instead we had politicians like Franson demonizing the LGBTQ community.”
In 2017, the day after Andrea Jenkins became the first trans woman to be elected to office in the history of Minneapolis, Franson tweeted, “A guy who thinks he’s a girl is still a guy with a mental health condition.”
In 2014, she characterized a bill meant to protect gay and trans kids from bullying as an “attack on the Bible and conservative Christians” and “fascism.”
In 2012, she explained her opposition to gay marriage by worrying that children “may be taught… that this is normal behavior.”
“I personally do not believe it is,” she said.
For more Hennepin County Library activities that celebrate queer and trans history, check out the library website’s “Pride” events page.