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Washoe County Library System relaunches in-person Drag Queen Story Time

A drag queen sits on a stage in a library auditorium and gestures with her left hand while reading to a crowd. Two library workers sit on the stage in front of her.
Jeff Scott
Washoe County Library System
Miss Ginger Devine reads to children and their parents at the Downtown Reno Library at Drag Queen Story Time June 25, 2022.

The Washoe County Library System hosted its first in-person Drag Queen Story Time since 2019 to some protest.

Miss Ginger Devine loves reading and has read books to children for years at the county library system’s annual Drag Queen Story Time, but last weekend was the first time the local event has been held in person since the pandemic started.

“I wanted to choose books that was all about accepting who you are and loving who you are,” Devine said. “I think especially right now, embracing and loving the things that make you unique and different that others may discriminate or hate you for, really wanting to impart that message to these children at this age.”

The program kicked off with a single reading in 2019. Library Director Jeff Scott was interested in creating more LGBTQ+ programming for kids in Washoe County.

“Part of the reason we like doing it is there’s not enough Pride events for kids, and this is a really fun, kid version of a Pride parade,” Scott said. “Having that in person, and being able to attend; people can be who they are and accept who they are.”

A drag queen and library staff pose on a library auditorium stage for a group photo.
Jeff Scott
Washoe County Library System
Miss Ginger Devine sits for a group photo on the stage in the auditorium after the story time in Downtown Reno Library on Saturday, June 25, 2022.

Despite their goals and enthusiasm for the program, Scott and Devine were both aware of possible protests and interruptions from anti-LGBTQ+ activists. Outside of the Downtown Reno Library on Saturday, a lone protestor carried a megaphone and a Bible. His name is Geoff Knell and he is a street preacher based in Fallon, Nev.

“You’re seeing them twerking, playing with the kids, reading books to cause confusion with sexual connotations in them," Knell said. "It’s very slight, but it’s there.”

“I am just a drag queen who is reading books that the library staff curated and approved of,” Devine added. “To anyone out there who thinks there’s some subversive agenda happening, well I guess literacy, respect and equity are now subversive agendas.”

On Sunday, a second session was held at Sparks Library, where a small group of Proud Boys showed up. The Proud Boys are a far-right hate group. KRNV reported that a person wearing a Proud Boys shirt approached the library with a gun causing people, including children, to run into the library for safety. No shots were fired.

On both days, the protesters were outnumbered by supporters of the event.

Just in the past month, Proud Boys have interrupted drag queen story hours in San Lorenzo, Calif. and Wilmington, N.C.

Ultimately, Scott said that events like these help the library system meet its goal of celebrating local diversity.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV reports on K-12 education with a focus on Latino students and families in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. He is also a first-year Report for America corps member. Es bilingüe, su familia es de Puerto Rico, y ama los tostones de su padre más que nada.
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