BOULDER, Colo — Educators, librarians, and community members gathered for the LGBTQ+ Safety, Storytelling, and Sanctuary Summit in Boulder on Saturday.
Over the last couple of years, there have been growing protests across the country against Drag Story Hour events.
People interested in organizing drag story hour events in their communities gathered at Boulder Public Library for a summit to learn how they can keep those events safe.
Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation helped sponsor the event.
“We really stress the nonconfrontation and de-escalation approach,” said Jonathan Hamilt, the executive director of Drag Story Hour.
Hamilt said Drag Story Hour is a children’s literacy nonprofit.
“We read to kids using the glamorous art of drag, and we think it's really important to have positive queer role models for kids,” said Hamilt.
Hamilt says when drag story hour started a few years ago, they were met with a lot of positivity and love.
But over the last couple of years, they began seeing protesters at their storytelling events across the country.
“We had to deal with all kinds of things from bomb threats to personal safety issues, personal death threats,” said Hamilt. “It kind of runs the gamut when it comes to hate overall.”
Drag Story Hour readers Shirley Delta Blow and Zarah were among the panelists at the summit on Saturday.
“If there are protesters outside or people who are negative to the event, I do my best to just ignore that because somebody else's opinion of me is really none of my business,” said Shirley Delta Blow, who’s also a local school teacher.
They shared some best practices for how educators, librarians, and parents can deal with protesters who try to disrupt their storytelling events.
They said they depend on staff and sometimes parents to address the protesters. They try to stay focused on reading to the children.
“I choose to ignore it,” said Zarah. “I feel like it pushes me to keep going and to continue to do what I'm doing because I know in my heart that what I'm doing is for good is to help celebrate and bring joy to the world.”
Pasha Ripley co-founded Parasol Patrol, a group of volunteers who do their best to shield children from protesters. They have chapters in 25 states.
“We walk between kids and their families and protesters. We use our umbrellas like shields, so they won't have to see the signs and the angry faces,” said Ripley. “Most importantly, we never engage with the protestors. We don't yell back and forth. The whole point is to reduce the chaos for the kids and keep them safe.”
While Denver7 didn’t see any protesters at the summit Saturday, organizers know it’s just a matter of time before they show up at other events.
They hope community members who host Drag Story Hour events will be prepared so the reading doesn’t stop.
Several conservative states have passed laws aimed at preventing drag performers from reading to children in public, but federal courts have blocked many of those laws.
For more information about Drag Story Hour, including safety resources, click here.