The organisers of Houston’s Drag Queen Story Time in Texas have said they are quitting following death threats and harassment from conservative Christians.
Trent Lira and Devin Will, hosts of the event, said they have decided to “step aside” after facing continued harassment.
Lira and Will founded Houston’s Drag Queen Story Time in September 2017, when they said the average attendance of the event at Freed-Montrose Library was around five children.
Drag Queen Story Time hosts: Protests were initially “peaceful and civil”
Writing in local paper Houstonia, the pair said that protestors started targeting Houston’s Drag Queen Story Time in July 2018.
They said that these protests were initially “peaceful and civil.”
“It disturbed us, but what could we say?,” wrote Lira and Will.
“They were standing outside and politely informing the public that there were drag queens in there reading to children.
“It was their right. It was not a threat.”
However, the organisers said the protests “intensified” in October of that year, the same month when four conservative religious leaders filed a lawsuit against mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Public Library executive director Rhea Lawson.
Although this case was eventually dismissed, the organisers said that one of the individuals behind the lawsuit, Tex Christopher, continued to come to nearly every story time.
“We cannot explain how it feels to put on a show while trying to avoid the stare of someone you know hates you,” they wrote.
The hosts went on to address criticism they had received after it was revealed that a former performer had a sexual assault conviction.
“We believe in what we’re doing, but we don’t believe in putting our friends, our families, or our children in danger.”
—Drag Queen Story Time hosts Trent Lira and Devin Will
They described the incident as a “systematic mistake,” which the library has apologised for, adding that all performers have been required to have a background check and a clean record following changes made by the library in October.
“We didn’t know about the conviction prior to last week, but it would have come up if a background check had been conducted,” they wrote.
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The pair added: “It is frustrating that the past conviction of a single performer now undermines the efforts of three dozen other drag kings and queens who have delighted parents and children alike with songs, costumes, and most importantly, stories.”
Lira and Will highlighted the homophobic abuse faced by one of its performers, Blackberri.
“How could she have known, when we invited her to read a story book to a handful of children, that it would evolve into death threats and national scorn? How could any of us?,” they wrote.
The organisers also discussed one particular when a Trump supporter, with a gun concealed by his clothing, reportedly entered the library during one its events in February.
Library vows to continue Drag Queen Story Time
Finishing their letter, Lira and Will wrote: “What started as a fun community event shared between us, a couple of drag queens and kings, and a few families has become a national controversy.
“People are being threatened. People are being hurt. We believe in what we’re doing, but we don’t believe in putting our friends, our families, or our children in danger,” they wrote.
“That is why we are choosing to step away, to protect the lives and the livelihoods of the people we love. We want to serve the LGBT+ community, and we will. We will just have to do it another way.”
Freed-Montrose Library, however, has reportedly released a statement vowing to continue with Drag Queen Story Time.
The library said it was “taking this time to re-organize the program, improve upon policies and procedures and to explore other collaborative partnership opportunities,” reports KTRK.