DELAWARE, Ohio (WKBN) – It was supposed to be a history lesson and a how-to-apply makeup presentation at a public library.
If the topic had been something less edgy or more conservative in nature, perhaps the outcry that resulted from the program’s mere existence would not have happened.
As it turned out, the Drag 101 program at the Delaware Public Library ruffled a few feathers, some of them in powerful positions.
The program was slated to be held at the library but weeks of complaints piled up, and then the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives got involved.
Speaker Larry Householder penned a letter to the Ohio Library Council demanding the program be stopped.
“When I was first informed our public libraries were being used to teach teenage boys how to become drag queens, I thought it was a joke,” Householder wrote.
For Householder, this is about money. The taxpayer’s money specifically, and how it is used at libraries.
Some say, since Householder holds the purse-strings for that money, his will be done, or else.
Ultimately, the Drag 101 class was forced to find a new location.
A comic book shop called Secret Identity Comics gave the program a safe place to meet.
Delaware police were on hand to ensure nothing happened as well — a group on bicycles patrolled the general area and just down the street, two SUVs with officers were ready if needed.
Meanwhile, dozens of LGBTQ community members and allies rallied in support across the street from the comic book shop.
Several of them wanted to make sure those who wanted to learn more about drag knew they should not be ashamed to express themselves however they wanted to.
Selena West helped develop the original program for the library and was there to present it at the store.
She detailed how her Drag 101 program was structured.
“Our program today is going to be focused mostly on the history of drag,” West said. “And we’re gonna finish off with a makeup lesson and a hair lesson.”
She also had some other drag queens stopping by to share more about the sub-genres of drag that haven’t received as much mainstream attention, such as drag kings (any gender performer depicting masculinity).
The class was open to everyone — it was attended by both males and females and their parents.
Prior to Selena’s arrival, another drag queen was posing for pictures with supporters. A young girl was picked up by a drag queen wearing a long green gown with vibrant pink and purple makeup with long eyelashes and a towering tiara. They posed for a picture and the girl was fine, not a single tear or recoil out of fear.
Selena describes being in drag like being a clown. It is more than a costume, it is a persona.
And it has been done for centuries. Male actors have played the roles of women in Europe during Shakespeare’s time, and in China.
For many drag queens (and kings), this is performance art. They can be an outlandishly large caricature of someone else if they want, or a deeper manifestation of how they see themselves. Their performances can take on controversial topics like racism or simply designed to create laughter and/or joy via a lip-synched song.
They also point out that drag does not necessarily mean the performer is gay, although many are, nor are performances generally sexual in nature.
The idea of sending the message that some people should not express themselves or ideas they find important in any way they choose was abhorrent to West, and many of those present in support like Betsy Kinkela.
“I was very disappointed [in Householder]. Specifically a few words he said, when he said we have to distinguish right from wrong and what I took from that was that he thinks that the gay community, the transgender community is wrong. That hurt my soul to call a member of our community, a member of the human race wrong,” Kinkela said.
When I asked if he stood by his comments after researching drag over the weekend and learning more about it, Householder replied, “What I said is what I said and that’s it. I’m done. I made the comment. I meant it when I said it and it’s time to move on with that.”
Meanwhile, West says she has been receiving thinly veiled threats since this all started, and they have continued even after the program was moved out of the library and to the comic shop.
People are threatening her over a history lesson and a makeup and hair tutorial.
Programs are held at our public libraries that in some way touch on aspects of the LGBTQ community all the time. Our public libraries have book lists for a plethora of LGBTQ issues and topics that can be checked out.
It was the audacity to proudly display what the program was about, out in the open sunlit air, that caused the vitriolic response that led to Wednesday’s rally. An audacity that supporters of the program and that supporters of the LGBTQ community cheered for.
For some of them, the idea that you can do what you want in your own home just don’t do it in public is long dead — the concept of allowing someone else to tell them who they are, who they should love and how they should act simply fails.
One of the supporters said that President Abraham Lincoln ended slavery but there are those who still seek to oppress people in this country.
The Declaration of Independence reads, “all men are created equal.” There is no ‘but’; there is no ‘except for’; there is no ‘unless’; and there is no ‘you have to like it.’ That simple premise is the social (and legal) contract we’ve all agreed to accept as we hold that truth to be self-evident.