Family & Community

Staci Elder Hensley | June 23, 2021

Drag queen story time, other Pride Month activities featured at OKC libraries

Staci Elder Hensley

In keeping with the nationwide trend, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System is once again hosting Pride Month activities at all 19 of its branch locations throughout the month of June.

Numerous activities, videos, and suggested readings are included, many of which are geared toward young children and families. Patrons can also obtain yard signs proclaiming Pride Month.

The library’s children’s activities include making rainbow collages, pride flag rainbow crowns, and “pronoun pins,” as well as story times with special books supporting same-sex attraction and alternative gender roles.

In celebration of the gay and lesbian community, Pride Month was first recognized nationally in 2000 by former President Bill Clinton, and June was officially designated as Pride Month in 2009 by former President Barack Obama. Since then, it has grown to include parades and multiple other activities in communities across the United States and beyond. As currently defined by most advocate groups and the media, the original designation has expanded to its current LGBTQ2S+ acronym, which stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and two-spirit,” plus additional sexual orientations and gender identities.

“As a welcoming and affirming space for our LGBTQ2S+ community, our library locations have been creating Pride displays and hosting Pride programs for years,” said Jessica Gonzalez, manager of the Metro Library System’s Engagement and Program Services.

“Over the past three or so years we have been mindful of organizing our Pride programs at the system level to increase accessibility and improve consistency for our customers,” she added. “For example, this year we have a Show Your Pride yard sign take-home kit available at all 19 locations. We also had the unique opportunity to create virtual programming this year due to COVID-19. This June we are premiering a variety of Pride-themed virtual programs that are reaching new audiences, including members of our community who are homebound. Our virtual Pride programs include story times, book clubs, and a StorySLAM with local storytellers.”

Among those storytellers are state Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, the nation’s first openly nonbinary state legislator (pronouns: they/them). As part of the virtual storytime program, Rep. Turner read books to children, including They She He Me: Free to Be! and My Princess Boy.

Others, like drag queen Shantel Mandalay, also recorded videos for children, which can be viewed on the library’s website and Facebook pages.

“Representation matters, and it is important for us to partner with local LGBTQ2+ leaders, so that community members are affirmed and see themselves and their families reflected in our program offerings,” Gonzalez said. “From members of OKC’s city council and the mayor’s office, to the dean of the Oklahoma City University School of Law, to community activists fighting for social justice, to educators and nonprofit directors, we have been thankful to work with such a thoughtful group of leaders committed to creating space and amplifying the voices of our LGBTQ2S+ community.”

She added, “It’s also important to note that in addition to Pride month, we are committed to ensuring that the LGBTQ2S+ community is reflected in our library collections, programs and services year-round.” Anyone seeking additional information about related activities may contact the library at 405-231-8650 or at www.metrolibrary.org.

Commonplace but Still Controversial

Although they’re now held nationwide and abroad, Pride Month activities such as those hosted by the OKC Metro Library System nevertheless create a hostile environment toward people who adhere to the traditional heterosexual family model and are harmful to young children, say a number of experts.

Presenting confusing sexual identity issues to preschool and elementary school-aged children does significantly more harm than good, said Dr. Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians.

Cretella stressed that parents should be aware and careful that they understand the true facts and statistics about the psychological impact of exposing young children to sexually explicit materials.

In addition to programs like the Metro Library System’s drag queen story hour, Cretella said, children’s shows, movies, and entertainment across the country are strongly promoting the same-sex agenda, using well-established indoctrination techniques like repetitive songs and saturation messaging.

“This repetition and saturation strategy has been deliberately used to normalize certain sexual behaviors and attitudes, both in children and adults,” according to Joy Pullman, executive editor of The Federalist. “The problem is that these sexual behaviors and attitudes are not normal. They are dangerous.

“The only thing that differentiates the LGBTQ2S+ community from other adults is their sexuality. Therefore, to talk about the ‘LGBT community’ with preschoolers is to talk about sex,” Pullman added. “And not sex as in age-appropriate basic human biology, but R-rated sexual techniques. It is obvious by the very fact that their bodies have not made themselves ready for sexual activity yet that this is not the right age for such information. Early sexual exposure is not surprisingly linked with self-harming and risky behaviors such as early sexual activity, susceptibility to sexual predators, and porn addictions.”

“Our culture is morally blind, and continues to suppress the scientific facts about homosexuality and transgenderism,” Cretella added, in an interview with CBN News.

Gonzalez, however, said the community feedback from Oklahoma City residents to the Metro Library System’s Pride Month activities has been overwhelmingly positive, including those for children.

“We don’t consider our programs to be controversial,” she said. “Our community has let us know that they are so happy that we have shown up as an active participant in celebrating and honoring the legacy, resiliency, beauty, and interconnectedness of Pride. We offer a diverse array of programs for all ages and walks of life that seek to enrich and educate, and we strive to be an affirming space where all families and community members are safe, seen, and welcome.”

Staci Elder Hensley

Independent Journalist

Former newspaper reporter Staci Elder Hensley is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she is a former news coordinator for both the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She served as a regular columnist for The Daily Oklahoman and Distinctly Oklahoma magazine, and her credits also include articles produced for multiple state and national publications, including The Journal Record, The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, and others.

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