Free Reading Room Library in Rye, New York Indefinitely Postpones Drag Queen Story Hour After Backlash From Anti-LGBTQ Protesters

January 31, 2020

Mathew Lasky
Director of Communications, GLAAD

Residents of suburb of New York City demand reversal of anti-LGBTQ decision as local newspaper, Rye Record, publishes shockingly anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

New York, NY - Friday, January 31, 2020 - GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is working with local activists in Rye, New York, a suburb of New York City, after a Drag Queen Story Hour has been indefinitely postponed following an outcry from anti-LGBTQ protesters.

According to local advocates, after receiving “an unconfirmed number of anonymous emails and complaints including a petition,” the Rye Free Reading Room decided to indefinitely postpone the upcoming Drag Queen Story Hour event. The Rye Free Reading Room serves as the town’s public library and its mission statement says it is intended to “serve as a dynamic gathering place and center for lifelong learning for Rye residents of all ages and interests.”

The local Rye newspaper – the Rye Record – reported the news in a story yesterday, which featured anti-LGBTQ language and blatant bias.

The Rye Free Reading Room has yet to make a public statement.

Multiple community leaders have gathered in solidarity to celebrate Rye’s support of LGBTQ people and issues, naming their efforts #pRYEde. Community members have also started a petition to reinstate the Drag Queen Story Hour which can be viewed here.

“The decision to indefinitely postpone the Drag Queen Story Hour at the Rye Free Reading Room Library was ill-informed and sends the wrong message to youth and parents alike,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s Chief Communications Officer. “The Rye Free Reading Room shut the door on a potential diversity lesson and its subsequent refusal to be transparent with local LGBTQ advocates and allies goes directly against its entire mission statement.”

"Our LGBTQ children deserve to live and thrive in a community free from exclusion and intimidation. We, as educators, understand the protective power of support and inclusive programming. Drag Queen Story Hour falls under both of these,” said Dr. Genevieve Weber, Associate Professor of Counseling at Hofstra University and Rye citizen. “I see tremendous value in engaging all children early on with topics around difference. Myself, and many other Rye community members were incredibly disheartened when DQSH was removed, quietly, from the events calendar. However, within the darkness of these protests, we find support within our community that is nothing short of extraordinary. From offers to host the event at private homes, to private messages of personal struggles, our community is coming together to support each other and protest this decision.”

An online petition launched by anti-LGBTQ protesters is being cited as one of the reasons the local library decided to cancel the event. According to this petition, “the Library should not use its privileged position in the community... to subject young children to sexualization of any kind...Drag Queen Story Hour’s sexual agenda and mature themes have no place in the Library’s Children’s Room.” It further stated, “the Library’s support of partisan political activities violates its Policy for Public Use of Library Facilities.” 

According to its website, Drag Queen Story Hour is a literary event that “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” Drag Queen Story Hour events are happening all over the world at libraries, schools, bookstores, museums, summer camps, afterschool programs, and other community spaces.

As of January 24, 2020, Rye’s event was postponed by the library director and the library board, which is comprised of local residents. Protestors attended the Rye Free Reading Room board meeting with prepared statements to further define the “inappropriateness of such a program.” References to Drag Queen readers as “strippers” and “hyper-sexualized caricatures of women” ignited a backlash from the community in support of LGBTQ-inclusion in the publicly funded library.

The Rye Record’s story suggested “community displeasure” towards this event. The local paper cited anonymous sources including a “longtime resident” who believed that “children need to experience diversity, not have it thrown in their face” and that “the presenter should be an expert on sexual preference” to not “confuse” the children’s “developing self.”

GLAAD is in touch with local advocates and allies on the ground who are open to speaking with the media.