Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
So now this is a thing: Cross-dressing males are donning party gowns and false eyelashes and invading libraries, schools and bookstores. They're reading books to young children, with the goal of influencing children’s hearts and minds – and parents are supporting it. The first Drag Queen Story Hour to make the news took place, not surprisingly, in San Francisco; but the craze has caught on, and cities across America are introducing preschool children to “gender fluidity.” The Drag Queen Story Hour website (yes, there is such a thing) lists 24 cities where drag queen events have been held, but I know there are more cities climbing on the bandwagon. From their headquarters in New York City, the DQSH produces more than one hundred events each year and provides curriculum, resources, training and support for a growing network of DQSH chapters all over the world.
The Drag Queen Story Hour began in December 2015, envisioned by lesbian author and activist Michelle Tea and the organization she founded, RADAR Productions. The DQSH website explains their mission:
DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.
What should be the response of Catholic parents, when an event like this turns up in your local community? I can think of at least four possible reactions:
Some parents welcome Drag Queen Story Hour. To my surprise, judging from photos I've seen of DQSH events across the country, there are a lot of parents who take this approach. I'm puzzled, frankly, by the first type of parents – those who invite the drag queens' unique brand of Newspeak into their children's lives. Catholic parents and those of most other Christian faiths surely disagree with the idea that one’s gender is chosen by an individual, and not imbued by the Creator. Yet pictures I've seen from DQSH events around the country show meeting rooms crowded with kids and moms.
Some parents demand that the event be canceled, and organize protests on the library's steps. Near my home in South Carolina, a DQSH event has been scheduled for Feb. 17 at the Five Forks Branch Library, which is part of the Greenville library system. The event, which features four cross-dressing male storytellers, has drawn competing Change.org petitions, with nearly 7,000 signatures to date demanding that the event be canceled. Greenville County Council Chairman Butch Kirven has publicly expressed his opposition to the event, saying, “Speaking for myself, I believe that if it were in County Council's power, the activity scheduled at the Five Forks Branch Library on Sunday afternoon, February 17th, would be shut down immediately. I believe that the County Council in no way condones the organization, its agenda, or supports this group’s purpose.” Kirven called the DQSH “an affront to our community's moral standards and values,” but acknowledged that county staff had found no way to legally cancel the Story Hour.
There is also a counter-event called a “Pro-Family Community Gathering” scheduled at the same time in the library parking lot. According to early reports, the counter-event will begin with the national anthem, after which a local pastor will speak.
Were I planning a “counter-event” on the day of the Drag Queen Story Hour, my event would look different from this one. A patriotic tribute and a church service may be a form of protest, to be sure; but that format wouldn't cause children to jump for joy. My event would instead feature storytellers – and darned good ones! Perhaps there would be a Mother Goose or a Cinderella or Superman, fully costumed and ready to lead children into a fantasy that's fun but without unwarranted sexual overtones. I'd have crafts, and snacks, and a musical march around the campus – and any children who were still listening to the DQSH event could hop aboard our caravan and join the fun!
Some parents may attempt to reach out to the cross-dressers, extending a hand of friendship and encouraging them to consider God's plan for human sexuality. While this may seem unlikely, I was impressed by an account I read recently on social media, posted by a priest who simply smiled at a transgender man as he passed on the street. The man was deeply touched, ran around the block in order to encounter the priest a second time, and struck up a conversation. The young man wanted to know why the priest was so nice to him – and the priest gave him an answer that had its origins in 1 Peter 3:15, “Be prepared to give an account for the hope that is within you.” The good priest asked the youth's name, then said no, he meant not his “trans” name but the name he'd been given at birth. He then explained how much God loved him, regardless of what had happened in his past, and extended an invitation to come to church.
That “open door” approach may not work for all parents, especially for those with small children who have not yet learned (and should not yet learn) about God's plan for human sexuality. Teaching children not to bully someone who is different is a good thing; but young children do not, as the DQSH website suggests, need “unabashedly queer role models.” It's a good approach to remember, though, when you're on your own and the children are at home. It's always good to mirror God's love!
Some heroic parents simply stay at home and read a book to their children, gathered around the fireplace. Maybe cookies are involved, as are hugs – along with a book carefully selected by the parents or pulled from the library shelf by the child at another time, when he's not likely to get an unwarranted lesson in personal sexual proclivities.