Drag queens will read to kids at Cherry Hill library, and it sounds like fun

Drag Queen Story Hour
Lil Miss Hot Mess reads to children during the Feminist Press' presentation of Drag Queen Story Hour! at the Park Slope Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, in New York.

UPDATED THURSDAY, JUNE 1 at 10:30 AM 

The Cherry Hill Public Library plans to host "Drag Queen Story Time" to celebrate LGBT Pride Month.

A pair of Philly-area divas calling themselves the Sheer Sisters, wearing fabulous outfits and reading to kids?

Sounds like big fun to me, to the 25 families who have signed up, and the 10 others on the waiting list for the June 19 event -- for which the library’s website helpfully suggests everyone wear their “most fantastic finery.” 

Alas, the folks at Acculturated and National Review are not feeling particularly  fantastic about this sort of thing.

The conservative publications are running an online essay by Amelia Hamilton, author of the Growing Patriots series of children’s books, bemoaning the very notion of drag storytelling as un-American.

Hamilton’s essay assails recent drag-queens-at-the-library happenings in Brooklyn and elsewhere -- turns out there’s even a Drag Queen Story Hour organization --  as the latest salvos in a sinister liberal indoctrination campaign that somehow crowds out all the content she’d prefer little ones be exposed to.

The Acculturated website illustrates her essay with a photo of an admittedly rather scary queen whose phantasmagoric regalia includes ferocious blue eye shadow. Just below the picture,  a headline warns that  “Your Tax Dollars Are Paying for Drag Queens to Read Stories to Children.”

In other words, they’re coming for your kids -- in heels -- and you’re footing the bill!

“The queens are not being paid,” says Katie Hardesty, the Cherry Hill library’s director of special events, and the mother of a 3-year-old son. 

“So far, the feedback’s been great,” she says. “If it’s not for you, you don’t have to come. If it’s something that appeals to you, come on in. 

"I've received two emails [Thursday] morning from parents beggin us to add another session," Hardesty adds. "We're trying to work something out to accommodate everyone who ants to come!"

Some people surely regard the notion of men appearing before an audience of children while wearing flamboyantly “feminine” attire as inherently political.

But the Cherry Hill event is mainly about entertainment,  insists outreach librarian Deena Caswell, who (like me) identifies as LGBT.

“It’s not going to be political, or about some activist” agenda, adds Caswell.

She's well acquainted with the performers, whose offstage names are Richie Roberts ("Aria Sheer") and Lindsay Caswell ("Natu Sheer").

Yes: One of the Sheer Sisters is the biological sister of the outreach librarian.

Meaning that Natu Sheer is not only a queen, but "a bio-queen," notes Deena.

“We’re not going to be talking about ‘gender fluidity’ and all these highbrow issues," Hardesty says. "It’s just kids getting together with someone who’s dressed up. It could be in the same vein as seeing someone in a costume reading a story.”

Speaking of which, the library has not yet chosen the stories to be read during the 30-minute session, although "Worm Loves Worm" (Harper Collins) has been a popular choice at similar events.

Caswell has arranged for film screenings and other LGBT Pride Month programming at the library for the last two years; in addition to the Drag Queen story session, events this year include a workshop next Thursday titled "Building Transgender Allies." 

A self-described “big fan of drag,” she notes that the Sheer Sisters are volunteering for the evening gig in Cherry Hill.

“I have seen them perform, and they will bring a lot of energy, a lot of fun,” Caswell says. “The performance in a nightclub in the Gayborhood on a Friday night is not what they will be bringing to the library.

“We want to create an atmosphere where children can learn they don’t have to feel afraid, or threatened by, people who look different from them.”

I agree with Caswell: A public library is “a perfectly appropriate place” for kids to be exposed to this sort of message.

And who knows?

The kids might even be inspired to read more books.