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Haddonfield’s Drag Queen Story Hour Brings Criticism from Some Community Members

Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

Libraries across the country have been having Drag Queen Story Hours for several years now, and some have had pushback within their communities as well as protests. This time, the concerns come from an event scheduled in Haddonfield, New Jersey.

The Haddonfield Friends of the Library (FOL) organized a members-only, Zoom Drag Queen Story Time as a replacement for the traditional book sale, due to COVID-19. FOL is a nonprofit booster group that raises money for the library but is independent of the library itself.

Although the majority of the community has been supportive, some community members were concerned that the Story Hour “would expose kids to sex at an early age” or questioned whether the event “would be a live sex show or simply a reading of children’s books, with no sex acts being performed, discussed, simulated, or referenced in any way.” The Haddonfield Public Library board held an emergency meeting to discuss the event and make a public statement confirming that they are “for the inclusion, diversity, and equity of all community members.”

The library takes its commitment to the community seriously, and is creating a subcommittee of FOL members focusing on diversity and making sure everyone is represented. Eric Zino, the Haddonfield Library Director, reiterates this, saying “When you walk in the building, and we say that we’re for everybody, but you don’t find any words that clearly say it, or you can’t find any representation in the collection that reflects you, then maybe we’re not doing our jobs.”

Ian Morrison, whose drag queen persona is Miss Brittany Lynn, was selected by the library to host the story hour. Morrison sees Drag Queen Story Time as a literacy program first and foremost, that helps kids “develop a sense of diversity, acceptance, and being open.”

While pushback against Drag Queen Story Hours might seem minor, they are part of a larger push for anti-trans legislation and the rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ hate groups. So far, 2021 has been the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history. Many bills and laws are targeting trans youth.

If you’re interested in learning more about Drag Queen Story Hour, organizing your own, or finding a local chapter, their website provides information about all of this and more. You can also check out our Annotated episode about it.