Inaugural Drag Queen Story Hour Tampa Bay draws anti-LGBTQ protest

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Participants in the first Drag Queen Story Hour Tampa Bay (DQSHTB) were greeted by religious protestors at St. Petersburg’s Community Cafe Sept. 29.

DQSHTB was formed by Adira Elham and is exactly what it sounds like, she advises. It features area drag entertainers reading stories to children in libraries, schools and bookstores. It aims to capture the imagination and play of childhood and give children glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models.Families, organizer Sonny Stewart and entertainer Dixie Lynn Michaels (who for full disclosure is Watermark Tampa Bay Bureau Chief Ryan Williams-Jent’s husband) arrived to find a group of nearly ten protestors. They were equipped with microphones, cameras and signage.

Signs included verbiage such as “Homosexual Adoption is Child Abuse,” “Save the Children from Perverts,” and “You Have a Choice, Turn or Burn.” Protestors screamed Bible verses and advised that all in attendance were sinners, including multiple children.

“Believe what you want, have whatever opinion you want,” Michaels says, “but having that belief does not mean you can scream it at children. The only thing I saw and heard in those protesters was hate.”
“To me, this symbolizes how much they want to see us fail,” Stewart adds. “We just want to let the children know they are loved and we’re here to support them. If at every event we have these guys out here, so be it. We’re not going to stop.”

Despite the attacks, the first event was a success. “The amount of love that poured out in solidarity against the vile hatred was beautiful and meaningful,” Community Cafe’s Mandy Keyes says. “The response afterwards has been very supportive as well. We have a special community here in St. Pete.”

The organization’s next event will be held Oct. 27. For more information, visit Facebook.com/DragQueenStroyHourTampaBay.

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