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Mobile Public Library hosts its first "Drag Queen Story Hour"

Hundreds of children crowded the auditorium at the Ben Ray Main Library in Mobile for the city’s first “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Former Tuscaloosa resident Wade Brasfield, in his stage drag persona of “Ms. Khloe Kash,” read two books for the young crowd, “The Rainbow Fish,” and “Stella has a Family,’ which is about a little girl with two dads. Brasfield feels he would have benefited from a “drag queen story time” when he young, and had difficulty dealing with intolerance at school. In interview with Alabama Public Radio and The University of Alabama’s Center for Public Television prior to the event, Brasfield said he hoped his young audience will realize it’s okay to be different.

“They’ll probably be really excited, and they’ll get to take a picture with me, and they’ll have it forever,” says Brasfield. “And one day, when they grow up, they’ll be like ‘this was a really cool experience, and I didn’t even realize it.’ And, that’s what’s important. This could be life changing for so many people. And I can facilitate this, then absolutely my job is done!”

Supporters of the readings outnumbered opponents, which were separated by barricades set up by local police. Demonstrators in favor of the reading event carried signs with slogans like “I’m going to tolerate the heck out of you,” while critics carried placards with messages including “your lifestyle isn’t for my children.” Opposition organizer Lou Campomenosi says his group isn’t anti-gay. “The long and the short of it is this we just think this isn’t an age appropriate reading for kids aged three to eight years old,” says Campomenosi. “And, I think that is our biggest concern, and I think for the community not to hear an opposing view isn’t a good thing.”

The local LGBTQ support group Rainbow Mobile arranged for the event through the local library board. Executive Director Bryan Fuenmayor says his group originally planned for only “Khloe Kash” to do readings, but the size of the crowd prompted the recruitment of a second drag queen to expand the event. “I was looking at the Facebook Events (page,) how many people where marked “going,”—And, I’ve heard from many parents who were coming," says Fuenmayor. "Also, parents from out-of-town from Pensacola, Birmingham, even as far as Huntsville are coming here. And I thought, I would hate to have them travel all this way here, and have the room maxed out, and not have their kids in there.”

“Drag Queen Story time” ended without incident or arrests. Organizers say New Orleans is the only other southern city to host such an event.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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