By Sean Savoy
As a civil rights advocate and proponent of human rights and defender of dignity for all, and as the director of NiCE: Nevada Interfaith Coalition for Equality & Inclusion, the director of NALA: Northern Nevada LGBTQ Leadership Alliance, and as a member of the City of Reno’s Human Rights Commission (RHRC), I feel it is important to address the recent statements made by Sparks Mayor Ron Smith as published in RGJ Reno Gazette Journal’s article.
It goes without saying that I was alarmed to learn of Mayor Smith’s condemnation of Drag Queen Story Hour, which will take place at 10:15 a.m. Saturday at Sparks Library, 1125 12th St. But even more shocking to me was the rancor with which he chose to define drag queens as he attempted to stop DQSH from taking place at the public library at all.
Let’s be clear. Public libraries are just that — public — and all should be welcome regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, which are all distinct aspects of human nature and the human experience.
Anyone who wishes to attend DQSH at a public library is welcome to do so, anyone who wishes not to is also welcome not to do so. I applaud Washoe County Library Director Jeff Scott for his reassurance that DQSH will go forward and that Mr. Smith’s concerns are unwarranted.
It is disheartening to say the least that the rhetoric promulgated by the Nevada Family Alliance, a conservative group that “strives to educate, equip, and empower citizens to advocate for their values” and whose key issues are “religious freedom, parental rights, sanctity of life, marriage and family, and education,” according to their web site, is being echoed by community leaders like Mr. Smith.
That Mr. Smith categorizes drag queens, as a matter of his own personal disgust, as belonging to the transgender community shows not only his bias but his ignorance. That he profiles them as criminals demonstrates transphobia and unfounded fear. “It is absolutely ridiculous,” he says. “Why would you have transgender people talking to kids,” he asks.
His conflating notwithstanding, I ask why not have transgender people talk to kids? In this case, why not have performers in colorful costumes read stories to kids? Does it matter if they are men or women or entertainers dressed as either or acrobats or clowns or pageant queens or dancers or singers or impersonators or impressionists or ventriloquists or any other type of performer?
These drag queens are not freaks or criminals. According to the DQSH web site: “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 could be wrong with that? Story time is for fantasy and fun and filling the imagination.
I happen to be personal friends with the two drag queens who will present at DQSH in Sparks. Both Ginger Divine (Christopher Daniels) and Aspen Meadows are upstanding and talented people and performers. Ginger is also widely known as a spiritual leader in this community (Alchemist Movement). While they are gay men, they are not transgender. And so what if
A lesson for Mr. Smith:
“Transgender” denotes or relates to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. This may or may not be expressed with clothes and make up. But certainly being transgender does not correspond by definition to entertainers who choose to impersonate members of the opposite sex as part of their art.
“Drag queen” is usually a man (not necessarily gay but often so) who dresses as a woman and performs as an entertainer especially to caricature women.The art of drag has evolved and will continue to evolve. Some drag queens are transgender, most are not. It should be noted that there are also straight, cisgender men who dress as women for their personal pleasure or as a form of entertainment or showmanship.
The art form commonly known as drag goes back to ancient times. Many examples can be given if one looks through the annals of entertainment history.Gender queer expression through art and fashion, while often embraced by the gay community, is not particular to gay, lesbian, bisexual or even transgender people. And it is certainly not only enjoyed by LGBTQ+ people. Again, a look back through history will reveal many examples of gender fluidity and gender queer expression in society, in art, in fashion, in entertainment.
Since DQSH will go on this Saturday, perhaps Mr. Smith and any of his cohorts who share his notions would be wise to attend and then perhaps their minds would be open to wonderful people whose objective is to enliven and enlighten children to see past outworn ideologies into a future filled with acceptance, respect, and possibilities.
I am confident in saying that Reno will welcome drag queen entertainers (gay, straight or otherwise), transgender people, and members of the LGBTQ+ with open arms.
In that light, I ask Reno’s Mayor Hillary Schieve and City Council members, representing the capital city of Washoe County, to come out in support of DQSH, and I further call upon the members of Sparks’ City Council to condemn Mayor Smith’s comments, not as a matter of spite, but as a point of education to punctuate that culture here is inclusive of diversity in all its variations that represent our colorful humanity.
To learn more about DQSH, see:
For information and to support the transgender community, please visit:
Sean Savoy is a community advocate and is a member of the City of Reno’s Human Rights Commission.
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