• December 2017 gathering of Story Time. File Photo: Crystal Proxmire

Huntington Woods Drag Queen Story Time Comes Under Fire

Jason A. Michael
By | 2018-12-19T13:35:04-05:00 December 19th, 2018|Michigan, News|

For the Huntington Wood Library’s Drag Queen Story Time, a glittering drag queen comes to the library to read to young children once a month. The program, said to be the third of its kind in the nation, has been going on for just over a year now with great success. But despite the good reviews it’s been receiving, Allison Iversen, a Huntington Woods city commissioner, has stepped up to say she has a problem with the program and finds it offensive.
In an email sent to Huntington Woods Library Youth Services Coordinator Joyce Krom Nov. 17, Iverson wrote, “I know there is a desperate need for people to understand and accept people that are different. I believe using ‘drag queens’ as a means to aid in this process is a mistake. Children are innocent little beings and we, as a society, should be banding together to preserve that innocence for as long as possible.”
Seemingly not seeing the opportunity for teachable moments, Iverson went on to express that drag queens were merely to be laughed at.
“A [drag queen story time] for adults would be hilarious and would make much more sense than DQST for preschool/elementary children,” Iversen wrote.
Iversen went on to call drag queen story time “provocative, controversial, ‘unabashedly queer’ demonstrations of diversity.”
Iversen even went so far as to request that the event not only be “reconsidered or changed to an adult event,” but asked that signs advertising drag queen story time not be posted in the children’s area of the library.
“We can opt to not attend the event,” Iversen said. “But we can’t ‘opt out’ of our children reading the flyers lining the bookshelves. I’d rather not be forced to explain what an ‘unabashedly queer drag queen’ is to my younger two children.”
Between The Lines has also learned that Iversen has been corresponding to members of an LGBT hate group using her official Huntington Woods email account. The group, called Mass Resistance, features an article on its website about its efforts to end drag queen story time in not only Michigan but also Alaska and New York. Mass Resistance has also announced plans to picket the next drag queen story hour in Huntington Woods, which is scheduled for Jan. 26.
In her first appearance at drag queen story time, the bejeweled Miss Motorcity Pride 2017, Raven Divine Cassadine, read to the children and spoke to them candidly.
“I was nervous coming here,” she said. “There’s a lot of little people in this room and it made me nervous. I didn’t know if you guys were going to like me or not. Do you like me?”
Cassadine receive cheers and yays and hugs from several children.
In a feature on the program last year, Between The Lines reported that a large crowd came out to the inaugural event. Erica and Brian Conklin and their children, ages 2 and 3, were among them.
“We just wanted them to experience it and see all sorts of people,” the couple said. “We didn’t want it to be a big deal. We just wanted them to have these early memories of experiencing diversity as a social norm. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
Today, amid the controversy, Cassadine said she is disheartened.
“It actually makes me upset and it hurts me,” Cassadine said. “I grew up in Huntington Woods. I grew up doing homework in that library with my friends. So it’s like a homecoming to me. How can you say it’s not a good idea when you’ve never come to support it or check it out? They just need to get over themselves and look at the big picture. It’s educating kids.”
And the children, Cassadine said, have responded well.
“The kids love it,” she said. “They get so excited. They’re so active in the reading and they have so much fun.”
For now, no plans have been made to cancel the program. But it will likely be a topic of discussion at Huntington Woods’ city council meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 18. A fundraiser for the Drag Queen Story Hour has been created at https://www.gofundme.com/support-the-huntington-woods-library-and-dqst

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.