LGBTQ+ advocates and allies show up to defend drag storytime at Moncton Library
A drag storytime event being hosted at the Moncton Library saw a turnout from both protesters and LGBTQ+ community counter-protesters after receiving online backlash leading up to the event. This marks another Canadian drag program disrupted by public outcry, but counter-protesters are hailing the event as a successful turnout to protect the safety of both attending young families and performers alike.
The Moncton Library storytime advertised stories centered around inclusivity and self-acceptance in both English and French, featuring Saint John-based drag king Justin Toodeep and Fredericton’s Barbra Wire. When both performers began receiving online harassment and threats leading up to the event, a group of local LGBTQ+ community members and allies began organizing a counter-protest in anticipation of protesters interrupting or intimidating families attending the storytime.
Mt. A. student Hannah Lucas was among as many as 100 counter-protesters and described the crowd as “cheerful, proud, and passionate.” As a queer performer, Lucas states that they felt compelled to attend in support: “I am able to go to work and do what I love in peace, and the drag performers are not.” They were not the only supporter to travel in order to attend the counter-protest. Josh Vautour, President of Fierté Dieppe Pride, and a number of other drag artists reportedly cancelled their scheduled show in Fredericton to show up in support at the Moncton Library. Counter-protesters had cleared a wide berth for attending families and children and cheered when people passed by.
Lucas’ takeaway from the event was as much a sense of community as it was a personal revelation. “I work as a musical theatre performer in Moncton. Every day that I work, I get into costume: I put on a full face of makeup, a wig, an extreme push-up bra, a corset, a jumpsuit, and boots. I play a character, perform music, and dance,” they said. “We have had many shows where children have been in the audience. Not once have I been told that my performance was ‘unsafe’ for children, or that it was ‘tainting’ them.” Their point being, “when a drag performer pours their heart and soul into creating a persona and perfecting the look, and goes to do an innocent task that is fueling the future generation—reading them stories—it’s deemed as ‘unsafe’.”
Currently in the United States, anti-drag sentiment is being written into law and seriously threatens the safety and livelihoods of performers. While Canadian drag artists face no legislation that would criminalize their performances, public hate and threats still restrict their ability to perform safely. Especially with programming targeted at children or youth, risk increases, as online outrage takes particular issue when drag is situated outside of age-restricted venues. Vulnerable youth must then consider the risks of attending for fear of altercation, as we saw in February at the Calgary Public Library with one disruptor of a drag storytime facing harassment and hate-motivated charges.
Drag communities are built on years of resilience against adversity and discrimination and prevail still thanks to the advocacy and support of communities and allies. Counter protesters like those this past week in Moncton defend not just the individuals performing, but maintain safe spaces for families, youth, and community spaces to feature diversity and acceptance.