Editorial: No one looks good in this Drag affair

Posted 6/13/19

Drag Queen Story Hour comes to Bristol on Saturday in a celebration of “Pride Month,” but there’s not much to be proud of here. The whole affair has been a mild embarrassment for …

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Editorial: No one looks good in this Drag affair

Posted

Drag Queen Story Hour comes to Bristol on Saturday in a celebration of “Pride Month,” but there’s not much to be proud of here. The whole affair has been a mild embarrassment for this community.

In essence, the town got played.

Supporters talk about men-dressed-as-women, reading books to children, in reverent terms, as if this is mandatory, celebratory programming for anyone hoping to raise open-minded, inclusive young people. They should be honest and recognize it for what it is. No, it is not offensive — in 2019, most adults between the ages of 18 and 70 are open and accepting of homosexuality, transgender, drag queens, etc. After all, this ain’t the 1950s, and we have all progressed much further than some activists suggest.

Drag Queen Story Hour is not offensive, but it is definitely uncomfortable. And that’s the point, right? By matching drag queens with children, the program pushes organizations and people into awkward spaces — especially when the drag queens are politicized (Bristol’s is a self-proclaimed Marxist) and sexualized. This program is designed to get a reaction, everywhere it goes.

Consider a standard story hour. The story is the show; the storyteller is just the medium between the story and the audience. If done well, the storyteller is invisible, with the words and message — the story — captivating young minds and taking them to new discoveries.

In this program, the storyteller is the show. By their very nature, drag queens are loud and attention-getting, with big hair, big curves, bright colors and scintillating outfits. They dress to be seen.

So when people say they’re a little uncomfortable with drag queens reading to children, they’re not homophobic, they’re honest. It’s a little weird, and if you can’t admit so, you’re not being genuine.

Organizations like Rogers Free Library face a lose-lose, or win-win choice, depending on one’s perspective. Say yes to the drag queen, and invite protest and opposition. Say no to the drag queen, and invite protest and opposition. Rogers Free made it far worse by saying yes, no and then yes again, triggering outrage on both sides. Consider the missteps:

• The library’s cancellation notice was loud and garish — an ugly red banner slapped across a Facebook event posting — devoid of any explanation or statement. It fueled anger.

• The library director’s comments to a Fall River newspaper were shallow and misguided. They fueled anger.

• The library trustees never should have canceled the event. By overruling their own employees and directors, they made the library look dysfunctional. Inside the library and outside, they fueled anger.

• The protesters put the ugliest light possible on Bristol. Within hours of the announced cancellation, they rushed to the steps outside their community library and chanted about homophobia and divisiveness. The crass name-calling and stereotyping were hypocritical, as the defendants never had a chance to even explain themselves. Some of those painted with that ugly broad brush are neighbors and friends, who must have been devastated to be called “homophobes” on both main street and social media.

• The Democratic Town Committee’s rush to public outcry was startling, especially considering the entire Silver Creek Bridge story affecting 25,000 Bristol residents (and every other local story in the past six months) has generated not a single public statement, but the drag queen story generated two comprehensive statements (including comments from every state legislator and two town councilors) in five days.

The whole affair has cast Bristol in an unfortunate and unfair light. The people of Bristol are better than what they’ve shown here.

Drag Queen Story Hour is designed to bring out the worst in a community. It succeeded here.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.