CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The image of a drag performer telling stories to children is one that would draw a myriad of reactions, both positive and negative.
And the event organizers know what is out there on either side. They see it in their comments, their e-mails, and their messages.
“We have unfortunately been met with a ton of vitriol,” said Joshua Jernigan, who’s a part of the Charlotte-area chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour.
Since 2019, the group has organized events across the area, which are family-friendly events, where drag performers (both drag queens and drag kings) read to children.
“They are kings, queens, and theys who come and dress for children and perform for children,” said Jernigan. “They read a story and sing, ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,’ or ‘The Wheels On The Bus.'”
Jernigan said the reading material is often consulted with local libraries and are often stories that — while age-appropriate — deal with everything from racial equality to gender identity.
Since the start, there’s been a backlash, which, in the last year, has reached a boiling point.
Jernigan believes it primarily has to do with politics.
“Anything they can do to get their name out there, they’re going to do,” Jernigan said. “And right now, it’s popular to be angry at Drag Queen Story Hours for conservative candidates.”
Three Drag Story Hours are taking place this weekend in the Charlotte area.
Two events are happening during the Charlotte International Arts Festival at Romare Bearden Park.
The third event is happening during Union County’s first-ever Pride festival.
The Union County event has received some backlash, most notably from Rep. Dan Bishop, a Republican Congressman representing the Union County district.
He called the event a “perverse activity.”
Queen City News reached out to Bishop’s Congressional office. His Communications Director told us Bishop stands by his comments.
Another Congressional candidate in the Charlotte area referred to the organizers of the Charlotte events as “pedophiles.” Queen City News reached out for any further comment from them but did not hear back as of our deadline.
The comments were not taken lightly by the organizers or performers.
“You might have some internalized things you need to work out,” said Matt Ramsey, also known as drag performer Shelita Bonet Hoyle, who will be reading at the event at Romare Bearden Park.
Ramsey was referring to those who have been vitriolic in their condemnation of the events.
“I grew up in rural North Carolina,” said Ramsey. “There was no one who was unapologetically queer, who was unapologetically themselves.”
Jernigan added: “they’re latching onto this idea that we’re doing something inappropriate when they’ve never been to any one of our story hours. None of them have even reached out to us to talk about what we do and how we do it.”
Organizers and performers noted that the messages they have received are significantly positive but that the negative messages have become louder in both a literal and figurative sense.
Despite that, Jernigan said, “we don’t bow down to bullies.”