Story time at the public library is one of childhood’s most sacred rites of passage. And now kids who live in the magical liberal bubbles of New York City and San Francisco can enjoy a special version: Drag Queen Story Hour.
At select libraries and public schools, drag queens are coming in to read stories, paint faces, and play dress-up, as part of an initiative to support children’s exploration of gender.
“They’re the next generation, so how we are with them really dictates how the next 30 or 40 years are going to be,” says drag queen Merrie Cherry, who was decked out in pearls and a powder-blue, fairy tale dress at a recent story time in Brooklyn’s Park Slope.
“Aesthetically, they just like looking at me,” Cherry explains. “But I’m used to that,” she adds, winking and primping her hair.
“Especially in these times, I think it’s really smart and necessary for us to show [kids] that when people are different than them, they shouldn’t fear them. There’s a beauty in that difference.”
Michelle Tea, who organized the Brooklyn event, says it’s a natural fit.
“I have long thought that drag queens need to be the performers at children’s parties, rather than magicians or clowns,” she told the New Yorker. “Drag has become more mainstream. Kids might have seen one on a billboard or on TV.”
In San Francisco, well-known queens like Drag Race alum Honey Mahogany, sign up for Drag Queen Story Hour at the Harvey Milk Memorial Library in the Castro.
“I think generally queers are not mixed with kids — especially drag queens,” Delgado Lopera, the executive director of the organization that coordinates the San Francisco readings, told SF Gate. “It’s really beautiful to have drag queens painting children’s faces and telling stories. It’s disrupting that idea that queers can’t mix with kids.”
Megan Tuohy is a Park Slope mom who’s taken her daughter to two Drag Queen Story Hours, after they loved the first one so much. “From the very beginning kids are pushed into these gender roles, which is absolutely absurd, because they’re just kids,” she told
“It’s very important that we expose our kids as young as possible to as much of a diverse environment as possible,” she added. “I think right now, we’ve seen that there are a lot of people in our nation who do not do that, or do not embrace that. So I think now more than ever it’s really important that I raise a kind, loving, accepting child—and we start with that from the very beginning.”
Merrie Cherry seconds the idea. “When they get a little older and they see someone that looks a little different, or like me, walking down the street,” she says, “they’re not gonna stare or make fun.”
And with a little luck, we’ll all live happily ever after.