The Albuquerque and Bernalillo County Public Libraries, like many other public libraries around the country, directly sponsor Drag Queen Story Hours, where male adult entertainers put on nightclub entertainment for children. In library drag performances in states like Washington, children have been pictured rolling around on the performer as he lay on the floor, and in another, a performer put on a strip act that revealed his racy bodysuit.
Many male drag performers have social media accounts that are even more explicit than their performances. If their younger audiences look them up, they may well get an eyeful of age-inappropriate content, much of which portrays women and girls as sexualized objects.
Our organization, the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), representing many lesbian and bisexual women, takes the position that it’s wrong for public libraries to sponsor sexualized adult entertainment as children’s entertainment.
We think of Drag Queen Story Hour as no different from proposing a Playboy Bunny Story Hour, and we think they’re treated differently because of a prejudice toward gay men that’s more likely to be found on the left. Somewhere along the good way of promoting acceptance and fighting negative stereotypes, gay men got typecast as harmless mascots of cultural tolerance.
This has been bad for gay men, since they’ve gotten stereotyped as not quite “real men.” It’s patronizing to imply that the only way gay men could be tolerated is to treat them as if they were harmlessly childlike. They’re not all predators, like the bad, old stereotypes, but they’re also not eternal innocents. Both stereotypes are dehumanizing.
It’s bad to have a class of adults whose behavior is beyond criticism. No one should get a blanket exemption from reasonable boundaries on exposing children to adult sexual themes.
Female exotic dancers, for example, are expected to take every step to prevent even their own children from exposure to their work. Gay male adult entertainers instead now perform their acts for other people’s children, at publicly sponsored events.
Gay men are men like other men, adults like other adults. They should not be exempt from the same reasonable expectations put on any female burlesque performer: don’t put on your act in front of minors.
This has been portrayed as a speech issue. It’s a matter of safeguarding children from early sexualization and exposure to damaging sex stereotypes.
Yet many of the same people who support Drag Queen Story Hour and say that libraries presenting adult entertainment to children is protected speech have objected to a library renting space to plainly dressed women to discuss the impact of allowing self-identification of sex on women’s civil rights.
WoLF plans an upcoming, ticketed event at the Seattle Public Library, part of a Washington State library district which also sponsors Drag Queen Story Hours, to discuss how another group of men have used gender identity policies to gain exemptions from ordinary standards of decent behavior.
Our speakers’ messages are peaceful and not sponsored by the library, but we’re being condemned by local LGBTQ groups as hateful and dangerous. These gender activists are demanding that the same library that publicly sponsors adult entertainment for children should refuse to rent space for a private event discussing sex stereotypes and civil rights law.
With that context, it becomes clear that even clinging to a supposedly nice sex stereotype, about a persecuted minority, has so corrupted public ethics that I think our event would have drawn fewer complaints if we’d planned an afternoon pole dancing show for kids. Maybe some “woke” library would have sponsored such an event themselves.
This is why we oppose making public policy based on inaccurate sex stereotypes, and we would ask all public libraries to take the same view. Stop treating gay men like children. Stop treating adult entertainment meant for gay men like children’s programming. Stop exposing children to rainbow-washed, misogynistic stereotypes. It’s offensive to the dignity of everyone involved.