Homophobes and transphobes descended upon the Gerritsen Beach Library in southern Brooklyn on June 6 to protest Drag Queen Story Hour, but dozens of supporters of the event mounted a counter-protest with chants of “Love not hate!” and “Say it loud and say it clear, all the queers are welcome here!”
The public library was hosting the popular family-friendly story hour event during which drag queens read books to children and their families. Drag Queen Story Hour events have enjoyed widespread popularity as of late, but some bigots have adopted a not-in-my-backyard mentality while spewing typical far-right talking points — that drag is harmful and that children are being victimized.
In this case, protestors became aware of the event ahead of time through social media and showed up to voice their opposition. One sign perched on a fence outside of the library read, “Don’t do drags, kids,” while another one accompanied by a Bible verse said, “Train up a child in the way he should go.”
Protestors even set up a “prayer station.”
Police officers were present and set up wooden partitions, creating a physical barrier between the two sides. Andy Ratto, an out gay activist who told Gay City News in February about his effort to use his privilege as a white man to advance social justice causes, was present at the contentious scene and recalled what he saw.
“There were two or three supporters of the Drag Queen Story Hour that were there, but over the course of about two hours both sides really swelled in attendance,” he explained. “One person had a sound permit and was using a bullhorn to spend two hours yelling at people. There were some signs with really aggressive messages.”
The determined protestors had distributed literature in the days leading up to the event in hopes of squashing it. One parent posted on Facebook pm June 3 showing a flyer that was handed out to people outside of a nearby school issuing warnings about Drag Queen Story Hour.
“Stop Drag Queen Story Hour,” the flyer read, followed by “Let us make it clear that we won’t allow this madness in our library or school!” Further down on the flyer were messages warning, “Men dressed as women teaching small children about their “GENDER FLUIDITY” and “The stories read aim to GROOM children into the transgender lifestyle.”
Inside the library, the event went on as planned as drag queen Angel Elektra read to children and their families. It was a strong turnout, too, according to Ratto.
“I had a great conversation with a couple of the librarians,” Ratto said. “I got to see really great turnout of families with young children, drag queens, and others.”
The event drew attention from local elected officials who spoke up in support of Drag Queen Story Hour.
“We are proud to welcome Drag Queen Story Hour to the Gerritsen Beach Library and condemn the hate speech against it in the strongest possible terms,” said southern Brooklyn State Senator Andrew Gounardes, whose district includes Gerritsen Beach. “I stand with Brooklyn’s LGBTQIA community against intolerance.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer also weighed in, saying, “Homophobia has no place in this city and that includes Gerritsen Beach, especially as we celebrate WorldPride.”
He continued, “Drag Queen Story Hour is a wonderful event that teaches compassion and understanding to our children. There’s nothing that is more valuable.”
Ratto said he largely ignored the protestors because he felt that it would be difficult to engage with people in that setting. Moving forward, he hopes those people who protested the event can learn to accept people who are different from them.
“I think some of their protesting beyond some of the hate and bigotry was motivated by ignorance,” Ratto said. “I think a lot of the people protesting were just confused about what drag is, what gender is, what transgender means, and I hope they’re able to work through some of that ignorance.”