Balena Canto

Combatting anti-gay bullying and celebrating diversity and acceptance — Will a drag queen story hour at Tredyffrin Library help?

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month and Friday, June 28th marks the fiftieth anniversary of what many believe was the major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement.

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City, which led to spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community that lasted for days. The Stonewall riots sparked an entire civil rights movement, and the reason to celebrate Pride Month in June.

Fifty years later, anti-gay bullying is still prevalent in schools and workplaces, and anti-LGBT sentiment continues to be combated across the world. With the celebration of Pride Month, many organizations continue to search for ways to teach tolerance, including our public libraries.  Libraries strive to promote openness, acceptance and the opportunity to educate children about people who are different from them.

In celebration of Pride Month, and as a way to encourage diversity and inclusion, a new twist on the traditional story hour is coming to Tredyffrin Library on Friday at 10:30 AM when it hosts a ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ (DQSH).

Libraries are not only about books. They are continually transforming to meet community needs and provide new platforms, programs, and services. A drag queen story time event at a public library might not be for everyone however the program is staunchly supported by the American Library Association.

The nonprofit group DQSH is described online as “drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores” with a stated mission to “capture the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and give kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queen role models.” The nonprofit has 35 chapters in the United States and five overseas.  The Washington Post reports that Drag Queen Story Hour “aims to teach children gender diversity and acceptance.”

The guest drag queen storyteller at Tredyffrin Library on Friday is Matthew Maisano (aka Balena Canto, right) whose Facebook page describes as an “operatic/classical baritone, singing-actor, entertainer, & drag queen!” Further research indicates Maisano has a BA in Music from Temple and a Masters degree in Musical, Vocal Performance from Cleveland Institute of Music. With many musical and acting performances to his credit, Maisano performed over the weekend as part of the Rose Tree Park Summer Concert series. (Click here for an excerpt).

Whether or not you support a drag queen reading to toddlers at our local library is a personal choice.  However, I think we can all agree that the world needs to be more accepting and open to new and different ideas – and that diversity, self-expression and inclusion is to be applauded.

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