LAFAYETTE, La. — Residents are defending a Louisiana public library’s plan to host fraternity brothers who are going to read to young children while dressed as drag queens.
All but one of the 20-plus citizens who spoke at Tuesday’s Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting said they support the Oct. 6 “Drag Queen Story Time.” The event is being planned by a provisional chapter of the Delta Lambda Phi fraternity at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The fraternity was founded by gay men and embraces bisexual, transgender and progressive men.
“It’s important for young kids to understand this is normal behavior, even if it may be different to some,” Brad Parfait, a sophomore at UL-Lafayette, told local newspaper the Advocate. “It’s not something you should be bullied over.”
Similar events have been held in Houston, Atlanta, New York City, Orlando, and dozens of other cities. In July, the Association for Library Service to Children promoted such events on its blog, calling those who’ve done it “library pioneers.” The organization is a division of the American Library Association.
In Louisiana, Tuesday’s meeting came hours after Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux indicated he may look to cancel the event. Robideaux said he wants to know how the event was approved.
“Our parish libraries are public spaces, with venues that any group or individual can reserve, on a non-discriminatory basis, as required by law,” Robideaux said in a statement. “We have to be certain, however, that our internally approved programming is both appropriate and serves the needs of Lafayette Parish.”
The event, which is recommended for 3- to-6-year-olds and their families, has drawn praise and criticism online since it was announced over the weekend. Supporters have said it represents inclusion and openness. Opponents have said it is inappropriate for young children or a public venue.
The library system’s director, Teresa Elberson, says she has no plans to cancel the event, unless the library governing board instructs otherwise.
“These individuals aren’t talking about sex or gender or anything to do with that at all,” Elberson said, referring to the fraternity members. “We are trying to use an individual wearing a dress to open the conversation about being different. That’s it.”