Trigger Warning: This story contains passages written by a verified anti-LGBTQ hate group.
By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
A few days after threats were made against a reading program conducted by Drag Queens, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh opted to cancel the final installment of the program Saturday morning deciding to “err on the side of safety.”
But one local LGBTQ activist worries what message the program cancellation sends to the LGBTQ community, especially children.
A message on the Library’s website Friday read:
“Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, Drag Queen Story Hour will not be presented this Saturday, June 29, at CLP-Main. CLP is proud to join other libraries around the country to offer programming to families that explores diversity and encourages empathy, kindness and understanding. We look forward to resuming story hour next season.”
When reached Saturday morning, Carnegie Library Spokesperson Suzanne Thinnes said the library became aware of a social-media post making threats against Drag Queen Story Hour programs across the country. She said the threat did not specifically mention Carnegie’s program, library officials decided to cancel the program out of an abundance of caution.
“We are very proud to offer this program and we fully intend on bringing it back next season,” Thinnes said. “But in this instance, we had to put safety first.”
The library wasn’t the only local group to cancel the program. The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum called of its program Friday that featured Ona Louise, the cofounder of the program. On its Facebook event page, museum officials wrote: “The event was cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control. We apologize for any inconvenience it has caused. We are exploring the possibility of future events and will continue to offer activities focusing on identity and inclusion.”
Thinnes said the Library consulted with both the museum and Ona Louise before the cancellation.
But while Thinnes said there was not a direct threat on the Pittsburgh Program, a June 24 online petition on a website called “Return to Order,” a special campaign by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, called for a protest to “urge” the library to cancel Drag Queen Story Hour. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the TFP as a fervent anti-LGBTQ organization. As of this morning, the petition has garnered more than 15,000 signatures. The petition did not contain a direct threat to the library.
The verbatim petition language states: I am appalled that you allow “Drag Queen Story Hours” to take place on your premises. Children should not be exposed to such aberrations. According to the American College of Pediatricians: “Conditioning children into believing that a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.” Libraries are meant to be a family-friendly environment, not a center to confuse children. I urge you to cancel the “Drag Queen Story Hour”!
While claiming to offer legitimate medical research, the American College of Pediatricians has been labeled by the SPLC as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a fringe anti-LGBT hate group that masquerades as the premier U.S. association of pediatricians to push anti-LGBT junk science, primarily via far-right conservative media and filing amicus briefs in cases related to gay adoption and marriage equality.
Sue Kerr, an LGBTQ activist, blogger and Pittsburgh Current columnist says while she understands that safety should be a primary concern, she says extra measures could have been taken by consulting with police to make the program safer and let it go on as planned.
“Let’s make the event safer,” Kerr says. “I worry about what kind of message we are sending to the LGBTQ community, especially our children, when we give in to these kinds of threats.
“What makes the decision even harder to take is that this all happened on the last weekend of Pride Month and the weekend set to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. I think more should have been done before there was a cancellation.”
Attacking these programs is nothing new for the right, according to a recent story from Vice News.
This is a developing story and we will have more information as it becomes available.