Planning for a protest outside of James L. McIntyre Centennial Library appear to be in the works after it was announced that a pair of local drag performers would be hosting a Drag Story Time for kids on Saturday Jan. 14 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Story time organizers are inviting young children and their families to the library next weekend to take part in LGBTQ+ friendly readings, arts and crafts, and other activities that are aimed at sharing, normalizing, and celebrating what makes them unique.
“It’s always a very positive and supportive experience,” says Drag Story Time organizer Ashley Aikens-McIntosh.
However, a Sault resident isn’t sold on the idea of the event, and recently took to social media where he called on his colleagues from the Unity Centre to get together and plan a protest against the story time on Saturday.
“Planning small protest for next Saturday regarding the “Drag story time” at the East st. Library,” his post reads. “Let the kids be kids. No gender benders please.”
The Unity Centre is currently located at the former Sister Mary Clare Catholic School on Glen Avenue.
Exact details of the possible protest are unknown at this time.
Meanwhile, Sault Pride issued a statement on social media Saturday night in response to the comments regarding the upcoming Drag Story Time for kids event:
We are saddened and appalled to hear that a protest is being planned against a Drag Storytime being held at the James L. McIntyre Centennial Sault Ste. Marie Public Library.
This protest is being held by a group that purports to stand for ‘freedom’, but in fact is promoting intolerance, in contradiction to the very definition of freedom. Some of the performers involved and many attendees are members of our larger Sault Pride community and identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ or allies. We stand with them in the face of this display of hatred and intolerance and we draw from it the resolve to continue being the queer-positive, inclusive presence that Sault Pride has come to be in the ten years we’ve been holding Pridefest in Sault Ste. Marie, while we remind ourselves that there is still so much more work to do.
If you witness this or any other displays of hatred being aimed at the 2SLGBTQIA+ community or any other marginalized communities, take action. Report the post, contact your city councillors, and support your family, friends, and neighbours who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+.
Linsay Ambeault, a Sault Pride Committee member and the mother of an LGBTQ+ child, describes this as dangerous.
“It’s just such an unsettling feeling,” she says. “How would you feel knowing this group of people hates your kid for some reason? They’re saying, ‘let kids be kids.’ What about my kid? What about the babies I carried as a surrogate that are being raised by two dads? What about them? Why do they not count?”
Drag Story Time organizer Ashley Aikens-McIntosh says she isn’t surprised by the pushback.
“I had hoped something like this wouldn’t happen, but it’s happening everywhere right now,” she says. “I have friends across Canada and the U.S. who’ve been doing drag story times and they’ve noticed these protests are popping up more frequently.”
Aikens-McIntosh had recently organized a drag story time for several families at the latest Sault PrideFest this past July.
“One of the stories we read is called Red: A Crayon’s Story, which focuses on a character named Red who is a crayon that has a red label on him, but he’s actually made of blue wax,” she explains.
“Red tries all these things to try and colour red things, and eventually realizes the beautiful things he can produce with blue colour.”
“Nobody said anything negative then,” she says.
Her reaction to the current situation now brings a mix of upsetting emotions.
“My first reaction is sadness, and my second reaction is fear,” she says. “Not fear for me, but fear for any children that may be queer who are in those people’s lives.”
“Sadness, because we know statistically a significant amount of our population is LGBTQ+ in some form. I think of all those kids who are in those people’s lives that fall under the pride community umbrella, and how those kids aren’t allowed to just be kids because they’re spending every day hiding who they are.”
“The statistics of self harm and suicide within transgender and LGBTQ+ youth is already so high.”
The original social media post talks about the Unity Centre’s intention to help feed the less fortunate by asking members to donate non-perishables.
The group also plans on holding weekly meetings, potluck meals, art classes, paint nights, music lessons, and more.
But the Unity Centre's good intentions don't satisfy Aikens-McIntosh.
“I hate when I see places that are talking about wanting to help people, and probably providing actual good help to people, but then there’s this whole other side of it,” she says. “Their message is like, ‘let’s help the community and be there for people, but only these people.’”
While it’s upsetting for the local pride community, the event organizer doesn’t anticipate anything major to happen come Saturday.
“The support has been overwhelming at these events,” she says. “The outreach from the community has been absolutely phenomenal. I think we’ll have a wonderful story time, and the kids will have great stories to share.”
“We just ask that everyone who comes to have an open mind and an open heart, and to be there for the right reasons – to show love and support.”
SooToday has attempted to reach out to the poster but was unable to get a hold of him.