A group of protesters gathered August 25 on Johnston St., near University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus. They were protesting the Drag Queen Story Time event scheduled for October 6. A small group of counter-protesters accumulated across the street.
Drag Queen Story Time is currently one of the most divisive issues in Lafayette. It separates the new generation from the old, the left from the right, the tolerant from the intolerant. This is a broad generalization, but you see my point.
Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux issued a statement on Aug. 21, calling for the event to be cancelled. “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. “We have to be certain, however, that our internally approved programming is both appropriate and serves the needs of Lafayette Parish.”
“Our children deserve library programming that is educational, reflective of our traditional American, Christian-principled values, and very importantly, age appropriate,” U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins said in his statement regarding the event. “The intrusion of the LGBQT Drag Queen realm into the Lafayette community, targeting our youngest children within a publicly funded venue, can only reflect the leftist agenda to deconstruct gender across America.”
Both statements are embarrassingly disgusting blemishes on Lafayette. Robideaux and Higgins, like some citizens they govern, cannot fathom the idea of a child learning the values of diversity, love and inclusion.
By exposing young children to non-traditional gender norms, these adult men who freely choose to dress as women provide a Christ-like example — love your neighbor and love yourself.
Speaking of religion, please do not throw Bible verses around in the name of moral righteousness. Religion has no place to dictate what is allowed in a democratic public forum.
While Robideaux’s statement is simply contradictory, Higgins’ statement is shamefully reminiscent of anti-interracial dialogue. I can’t help but wonder if those “traditional American, Christian -principled values” he refers to are racism and sexism. He provides a lovely example of dehumanization by using language such as “intrusion of the LGBQT Drag Queen realm.”
This event can only benefit Lafayette youth. By tearing down gender norms, children are freed from traditional societal expectations based on their sex. Perhaps “little Bobby” will learn that it’s okay to express emotions, rather than bottle them up and lash out in the form of bullying. Perhaps he will go on to live a happy life as a gay adult, rather than commit suicide as a teen, as lesbian, gay and bisexual youth seriously contemplate suicide at three times the rate of heterosexual youth. Perhaps “little Bobby” will forget about the reading by the time he falls asleep. Aside from talks of gender, this event simply exposes children to a larger world. Would you not want your child to be worldlier, more cultured and more empowered?
“With drag, you can be anything,” said Dr. Catherine Jacquet, an associate professor of history and women’s and gender studies at the University. “This sets an incredibly positive example for children. They too can be anything. They can create anything. They do not have to be confined or constricted by any limits. So I would say that in the same way that exposing children to the arts and creativity is beneficial for them, so too is exposing them to drag queens.”
It’s astounding that all of this can be accomplished by playing dress-up, a rather innocent form of entertainment. That’s a hell of a way to serve, Mr. Robideaux.
Why should I have any opinion on this matter? I’m mostly heterosexual, and I don’t claim to be a drag queen by any stretch of the imagination. Although, I do enjoy wearing chokers and black nail polish from time to time.
In 2001, 25-year-old Lewis Davidson murdered Willie Houston, a 38-year-old heterosexual man, because he believed Houston was gay. Houston was holding his wife’s purse and walking with a male friend after a midnight dinner cruise in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Antigay violence and transphobia can affect anyone. Gay rights are for everyone,” Dr. Pippa Holloway writes in her “Manifesto for a Queer South Politics.”
Dr. Michael Bibler, associate professor of English and affiliate of WGS at the University, put it best: “Maybe it sounds cliché, but I think the best way to address hate and intolerance is with love. And I think that’s what the event is about anyway: opening up a world of possibilities with joy and welcoming.”
James Smith is a 21-year-old mass communication senior from Grand Coteau, Louisiana.