Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee

Drag Queens Have Rights, Too

Drag Queen Story Hour is a gift to the ongoing conversation about the limits of freedom of expression. If you aren’t familiar with Drag Queen Story Hour, you might be one of the very few people who hasn’t been talking about it. No worries, you can remedy that by heading over to their website. DQSH was created by Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions in San Francisco. They then partnered with the San Francisco Public Library and later the Brooklyn Public Library, and as the website says, it is “just what it sounds like, drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores.”[1]

There are many aspects of Drag Queen Story Hour that can be praised and celebrated: the inclusion, encouraging children to be themselves, and best of all, fun! Since I am writing this blog as a member of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee, I am going to focus on the intellectual freedom aspect of Drag Queen Story Hour. This program is creating a lot of conversations about intellectual freedom in our communities, and I am incredibly grateful to DQSH for this. From the conversations, protests, and even lawsuits going on in communities, it is clear that there are still conversations to be had around what it means to have freedom of expression.

If you open up your favorite internet search engine and do a search for “Drag Queen Story Hour” there will be a bevy of news stories, and depending on when you are reading this, some of those stories could be from today or yesterday. City council members, parents, drag queens, and even the ACLU are discussing what it means that public libraries allow the freedom of expression via the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

One such community is Lafayette, Louisiana. Members of the Delta Lambda Phi fraternity from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette planned a Drag Queen Story Hour to be hosted at the Lafayette Public Library. A lawsuit was filed by three members of the community, leading to the cancellation of the program. Afterwards, the Lafayette Public Library required patrons reserving a meeting room to sign a document stating that they agreed not to hold a Drag Queen Story Hour and that violation of this agreement could lead to the patron being sued by the library.

Then the ACLU stepped in on behalf of some community members. The ACLU of Louisiana filed suit to challenge a ban on Drag Queen Story Hour at the Lafayette Public Library. According the plaintiff of the suit Aimee Robinson, “Drag Queen Story Time has widespread support in Lafayette, and it’s called a ‘public’ library for a reason. We’re not just fighting for Drag Queen Story Time, we’re fighting for everyone’s right to be themselves and speak their minds – without being discriminated against, censored or banished from public spaces.” [2]

On Jan. 3 2019, the Lafayette Public Library agreed to lift the ban on Drag Queen Story Hour in response to the ACLU suit.[3]

Similar events and conversations are happening across many communities, and more people are thinking about intellectual freedom and the First Amendment. So, the next time you talk to a drag queen, say thank you for this gift!

This post addresses the following ALSC core competencies: V: Outreach and Advocacy and VII: Professionalism and Professional Development.

[1] Retrieved Jan. 15, 2019

[2] Retrieved Jan. 15, 2019

[3] Retrieved Jan. 15, 2019


  1. Dan Kleinman

    What about the Houston Public Library case?

  2. anonymous

    Dear committee, I know that you have discussed this issue extensively. However I find that these “rights” are often one-sided. When was the last time you invited a priest, a nun, or an evangelical Christian to do a story time? With the trend to even do away with traditional holiday stories such as Christmas or Easter, I find that instead of being even handed about freedom of expression, the trend in society and even in libraries is to exclude traditional viewpoints, and promote more politically correct views. I sign this anonymously, because I fear my viewpoint is no longer welcome.

    1. Terri Guy

      Your viewpoint is welcome with me and I agree with it 100%. Furthermore, I don’t believe a public library is the proper forum for drag queen story hour. Someone dressed up as Moses or Jesus would certainly not be allowed. As you said, anyone who might try to “indoctrinate” children into their religion would be unacceptable. Yet someone who wants to persuade children it’s okay for a man to dress up as a woman is lauded as a progressive, entertaining individual. Yes, drag queens do have a right to tell stories to children, but they should do so at a place not funded by taxpayer dollars where parents who wish for their children to attend can take them. Those parents probably would not want to hear Bible stories at the library because those stories would not be “inclusive”. In the same way, some parents find drag queen story hour offensive and they don’t want to take their children to a library unaware and find that one is going on.

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