(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 15, 2017)
Huntington Woods, MI – Story time in Huntington Woods got a little more interesting with the announcement of guest readers for December, January and February. The Huntington Woods Library has begun hosting what is believed to be the first Drag Queen Story Time in Michigan.
Youth Services Director Joyce Krom invited Huntington Woods native Miss Raven Divine Cassadine and her friend Mr. Red Ribbon Dylan to read and sing stories with children in the community after hearing about Drag Queen Story Times in San Fransisco, New York and Boston. “My hope is that the next generation of kids won’t see Drag Queen Story Time as anything unusual, and they’ll just see people for who they are,” Krom said.
In a follow up email, Krom added “We are in the midst of a cultural shift. In the past, members of the LBGTQ community were not embraced by our culture; they were hushed and hidden. The LGBTQ community has made great strides in the last 40 years toward being visible and accepted for who they are. This next generation of children coming up have the opportunity to live in a world where all people are accepted for exactly who they are. We can help ensure that happens by exposing our children to a wide variety of people and cultures.
“Drag Queens are the perfect people to introduce diversity, acceptance and pride to our children. It would be inappropriate to introduce children to “token gays” every bit as much as it would be to bring in “token blacks” or “token disabled people.” However, Drag Queens are performers by choice. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to use their talent to help educate a new generation of children in acceptance. As librarians, our job is to give children mirrors and windows. In addition to exposing our children to greater diversity, we can use this opportunity to affirm the experiences of our LGBTQ children. They are our patrons, too.”
“We have had some push-back, but it was far outweighed by the positive responses,” Krom said. “There is tremendous support for this.”
Miss Raven, wearing a white gown and sparkly tiara, read “Be Who You Are,” and “My Princess Boy.” The stories gave her a chance to share a little about herself and to ask questions of the kids also.
“This crown is because I like to be proud, and you should be proud of yourself and proud of your friends too,” she said. She shared that she grew up in Huntington Woods and spent about 13 years doing ballet. “It takes a lot of practice and work,” she said.
One of her childhood friends was in the audience. “Growing up, I was a Princess Boy,” Miss Raven said. “And people would laugh at me. But Natalie was my friend. She never made fun of me. She never said anything bad. If anyone said anything mean, she stood up for me.”
Mr. Red Ribbon also talked about feeling out of place as a youth in Grosse Pointe. “I was bullied in high school, but I never let the bullies get to me,” he said. “We are all human, remember that. We’re all different in our own special ways.”
Story time ended with a surprise for Miss Raven. It was her birthday, so the kids sang her Happy Birthday while Krom wheeled in a cake with lots of candles.
“I was nervous coming here,” Miss Raven said to the kids. “There’s a lot of little people in this room and it made me nervous. I didn’t know if you guys were going to like me or not. Do you like me?” she asked.
Erica and Brian Conklin brought their kids, 2-year-old Jack and 3-year-old Harper, to the event. They didn’t feel any need to explain what a Drag Queen was. “We just wanted them to experience it and see all sorts of people. We didn’t want it to be a big deal. We just wanted them to have these early memories of experiencing diversity as a social norm. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
When asked why she wanted to do Drag Queen Story Time, Miss Raven also spoke of the importance of early memories for the kids. “We have to start at a young age so they can know about acceptance. And it lets kids know if they feel different that there are other people out there like them. Seeing us can give them someone they can relate to,” she said.
The Huntington Woods Library will hold two more Drag Queen Story Time events:
6:30pm – 7:15pm, Thursday, January 18, 2018
6:30pm – 7:15pm, Thursday, February 15, 2018