“This was the first time I had to be brought in by the back way to avoid protesters,” said Ian Morrison. The group of about 30, mostly conservative Christians, were at the Cherry Hill Library to protest a presentation by Drag Queen Story Time (DQST), an educational program for children. Morrison, who performs in drag as Brittany Lynn, reads stories to children (and their parents) promoting literacy and diversity.
The DQST event and its protest was on June 7. “They tried to get the event canceled,” said Morrison, “but the folks at the Cherry Hill Library stood their ground.”
According to Morrison, the event was well-attended, with at least 60 children and their parents lined up to see Brittany Lynn read a children’s story. “But then” he added, “I was told that there was another group of about 40 that wanted to see the event, but that they decided they wanted to stay outside and counter-demonstrate against the protesters, to show their support.”
“I told them afterwards, ‘You guys are the real heroes,’” Morrison said.
While the Cherry Hill event was Morrison’s first in-person encounter with right-wing protesters of Drag Queen Story Time, he has recently had to deal with increasingly vocal conservative blowback on social media.
“I had to go in and change the settings on my social media pages,” he said. “They would leave messages saying things like, why are we having sex with children in public? These people obviously don’t have a clue what Drag Queen Story Time is all about, what I do. I constantly work with parents and educators and librarians to determine what would be appropriate to read to the kids.”
Morrison continued: “Let’s face it, none of these protesters have ever bothered to come in and actually witness first-hand what DQST is all about. They’re just too willing to believe the right-wing myths.”
Despite his frustration having to deal with local right-wingers, Morrison is actually getting off pretty easy compared to other parts of the country. Religious conservatives demonstrate against various Drag Queen Story events in places ranging from New York, where protesters prayed outside the library, to North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, even in traditional bastions of liberality like San Francisco.
Given the continued growth of the MAGA movement, it’s no surprise that anti-DQST demonstrations have gotten more aggressive. Even the militant insurrectionist group the Proud Boys have shown up to demonstrate against drag queens in North Carolina and Nevada, some of them coming armed.
Fortunately, the support displayed locally for DQST by parents and educational agencies has been reflected nationally. Frequently, religious protesters are outnumbered by families counter-protesting in support of the drag queens.
One example of surprising support took place in traditionally conservative Billings, Montana. Montana, of course, has a national reputation for being virulently homophobic, yet when a Drag Queen Story event was scheduled at the local zoo, literally hundreds turned out in attendance. When the religious demonstrators showed up, they numbered only a few dozen.
Such demonstrations of support, not only in faraway Montana, but locally at the Cherry Hill Library, give Morrison cause for optimism. “This new generation of parents is, I think, different,” he speculated. “They’re going to change things. They’re going to raise their kids to value diversity, not hate.”
Despite these causes for optimism, the rise of right-wing aggressiveness cannot be ignored. The presence of groups like the gun-toting Proud Boys emphasizes the element of risk that Morrison and his fellow drag queen across the country must face.
Yet Morrison, and his alter ego Brittany Lynn, is undeterred. “What I do is important,” he said. “Yes, I do get anxiety sometimes—but I’m not going to stop what I’m doing. It’s important work; someone’s got to do it. And it looks like I’m going to be the old broad at 50 who does it!”