Opinion: A Lesson For Sparks Mayor Ron Smith

Photo of Sean Savoy by Ty O'Neil.
Sean Savoy image by Ty O’Neil.

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.

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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.

First and foremost, drag queens, let alone transgender men (not to mention transgender women), are not criminals any more than a straight, cisgender male is a criminal. Shouldn’t we have gotten past the point of vilifying and profiling people as criminals or mentally ill because of their sexuality or gender identity? Perhaps Mr. Smith thinks not. Perhaps it’s time to educate Mr. Smith and those who may share his hurtful opinion and harmful expressions of such.

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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 they were? Perhaps they’d present as drag queens, perhaps they’d just be presenting as their true selves. I think either would be perfectly acceptable and should be.

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.

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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:
https://www.dragqueenstoryhour.org/

For information and to support the transgender community, please visit:
http://www.transgenderalliesgroup.org/


Sean Savoy is a community advocate and is a member of the City of Reno’s Human Rights Commission.

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21 Comments

  1. Children who are exposed to tolerance toward those who think or live differently than the majority of the population, are better equipped mentally and emotionally to accept that different is NOT necessarily bad. Different IS just different. There is plenty of predatory deviance out there showing that lifestyles of all persuasions have the capacity to slap a toxic label on people who don’t fit “the mold.” There are brain wiring differences or behavioral exposures that affect a person’s view of the world and of their place in it. There are many new humans born everyday on this planet. Out of 7 Billion people in the world, there are plenty of bio-chemical glitches that can produce all kinds of variations of behavior. It’s the roll of the dice.

  2. Not only do I agree with mayor Smiths objection,I think the parents of the children that allowed them to attend the reading should be required to attend parental counseling. If they are that screwed up at this stage of raising children think of the end product. God help us!

    • I am not Agee with you may you need to learn more about the LGBT community my son is 14 and he is Trans since he is 4 years old and he do not need counseling he is just a happy child

  3. Reread this opinion piece again and have one more comment. I would rather improve my Spanish language skills than learn about drag queens because the Hispanic cultural influence is substantial while gay culture is pretty nonexistent in Reno (county seat, not capitol)/Sparks.

    • I can teach you Spanish as well about Trwnsgender and gay community in Sparks and Reno also I can teach you how to make tamales and how to Love people

  4. I agree with the mayor, kids should not be subjected to suggestive lifestyle choices. Be real, it’s not normal or wholesome, it’s all about promoting a lifestyle choice. These arguments about the rights and acceptance is nothing more than a plea for attention and promotion.

  5. I don’t think it is the LGBQT thing that concerns me over this issue. It is the fact that young kids, 3 to 9 years old, are being introduced to performers whose venue is bars or nightclubs. I would have the same problem if it was strip club or burlesque performers instead of drag queens. According to the Drag Queen Story FB page, they also ask questions of performers and pose for pictures. Once again, I wouldn’t want my young child questioning or posing with some Chippendales guy, either. Three to nine years old is a little young to learn about jobs in adults only venues.

    • Agreed. This is about the age appropriateness of these performers. It is NOT a LGBTQ+ issue, freedom of speech or civil rights issue. The performers are for adult venues, not public libraries, and definitely not for such young children. Those seeking acceptance need to respect the same boundaries of those living around them instead of pushing the most extreme, explicit and obscure aspects which will only shock and offend.

    • I agree 100% .These are your “adult decisions”,not for children to be subjected and influenced by,it’s provocative,risquse and and mildly explicit. It makes alot of people uncomfortable,set aside all the equality and rights of it which obviously are gonna be advocated and picked to the bone.Set that reality of it aside please and bare in mind this, people’s feelings of it. Not everyone is for it. That being said I get it, that it is what it is and it’s not going to be changed. If one doesn’t want to be around it then don’t be wherever that activity or lifestyle choice is gonna be. It’s simple. But the fact is everyone is entitled to their beliefs and individuality, and their feelings. A lot of feelings of it even as adults are confusion and discomfort. I feel that putting kids in the mix is only going to bring about a big mess. With the outcome being more problems and more conflict.ultimataly moving backwards in the whole cause of the purpose here. There is a time and place for all things and other groups of people have their designated times and places to express their belief or lifestyle. For example, you don’t see cowboys running threw publicly designated areas doing cowboy stuff,rock crawler folks can’t just go rock crawl up all throughout the town, hunters certainly can’t go run around town just doing hunting stuff, and artist can’t just go painting up whatever they want in the city. In fact these are all criminal offenses that would potentially result. And These are all lifestyle choices of people and ways of life that are defining of people to just name a few. That being said I am not saying that you shouldn’t be you and express it,own it and be proud. But it’s your thing and when it’s pushed on people their insecurities and fears surface and in human nature they get on the defense, alot of times this is just foolishness and ignorance. It’s always going to be there its always going to exist and then comes the escalation of a situation into an unnecessary moment that can be provoked from this which anything can happen.alot of times its that split second moment that’s going to impact alot of lives that’s gonna be a thing that coulda been avoided rather than insistently provoced by the need for attention. All attention isn’t good attention. And there exist some radical thinking of people and I just think it can stir folks up because you have to think of the reality of the world, how it really is, not what the reality you hope someday will come, or that your striving to achieve, you can’t calculate off a hope and dream because it’ll give you the wrong answer. Unfortunately the variables of reality have to come into this equation and there’s alot of them. So I say do what you do but when you go blatantly making waves or jumping in the Lions den and you feel your want or protest for it to not be the reality of the outcome, then there’s the the real factual outcome. Want and real are polar here and it can’t just be conquered by running head-on . It’s achievable yes, but only with caution and calculated strategy. Nothing great happens in an instant, it’s a process and this is just alot quickly. Back to feelings here, which we are all entitled to and what all this ultimately boils down to. How people feel ,their emotion on a personal level of a matter. Really that applies to most things…Alot of times people have a varying range of feelings on things which brings about the all this mess we create in the world of right wrong and indifferent. It’s not fair to put your emotion and particular emphasis of something directly onto those who don’t seek it. Your argument can easily be put on the other foot directed back to you on the argument that it’s being forced on people who aren’t trying to have that be an obstacle to their day.When a matter is forced on people in a public setting that they aren’t seeking out or prepared for they tend to be reactive rather than understanding on first thought whereas upon further thinking may have other feelings or thoughts than the initial. But it’s not going to be instant or usually favorable. People get a better understanding and choose wiser in time and education but it’s when it’s chosen. When it’s pushed on you it’s a detoring off putting result. I think we can all think of a time when whatever it may be or However it apply that we have been pushed into something in turn to only go the other direction, its a reaction to do so. I feel everyone is entitled to be themselves do what you do , be you , but don’t expect everyone to like it or to be with it as the same goes all the way around. Just do you and don’t insist it on others to be about or like too. Like if all people who are athletes (example of a group of people, same as many various orientations and groups of people) chose to make people feel wrong for their choice or belief or for not being about the athletic lifestyle. Trying to bring shame and humility to others because they want a big Mac and dont run a mile every morning. It’s wrong, it’s a mark going against the bones of your cause. It’s a double standard and contradiction if you break it down and get right to the facts of the matter. You want to publicly shame the mayor and criticize and label as wrong for his choice of doing his job in the overall public aspect to your life choices. It’s the government’s duty to release what they feel the public can handle in a manner that doesn’t create chaos confusion and conflict. What happens in the opposite? A complete mess the general public is alot its alot of varying opinions thoughts feelings and lifestyles so that has to be addressed in a generic overall way that can be understood and manageable for people from a-z to be able to grasp and adhere to. Its an over all consideration of all not just to one he is addressing. Everyone wants their cause or sect to be catered to but that’s not how it goes or how our society functions. There has to be a generic and mutual tone and understanding of public interaction. It’s just a mutual respect and courtesy for our fellow citizens in our community. Our personalizion of our individual beliefs choices way of living etc is something to expressed in private or in organized or festivaly centered ways. Not in the neutral zones of our co habited areas. Otherwise it’s breeds a lack of control and general courtesy of others . Back to want and reality , you just don’t know what people may do or how far they will go. It’s overlooked when trying to advocate a cause but it should be foremost considered in that there’s a reason you may not readily reason to or understand or even see at first but it’s there as a governing practice to not be looked at in reason of hind sight. Just not everything need be questioned and picked at. You can only see it how u do or how you want others to and its just unreasonable and will never happen and the fact you don’t accept it still doesn’t make it real or make it so. The mayor isn’t just thinking of you and your wants never to consider all the wants and ways of thinking here.its his job. It’s not well thought of you to be selfish and to try to oust him for making a team decision or at least vocalizing it because you may not see your best interest in accountidation here but you maybe should not be so narrow minded or quick to be so victimized and seek a bleeding heart to your disapproval which on top of it all didn’t even change the outcome to whole tantrum to your point. Your still getting your way. , aside from the public’s feelings on it and others emotions on your unequal hipoocritic tantrum here. We can’t all just go around “me, me, me mee-ing” it and get what we want from throwing a fit. Hell no I got an array of topics I don’t like how it is on but me throwing a fit and trying to belittle an official who isn’t in favor of what u want…what we want for ourselves in which we believe right isn’t always that of the rest of the world.thats how it is and when people’s best interest is being account for we can’t get mad and belittle the public face for doing their job that’s and making choices on a reality we clearly don’t grasp.There always more than just what is projected to us or than what we see or think we see things to be. We at times become so indulged for acceptance and validation of our belief we forget that out our own selfish intent isn’t the response we sought so we make bigger trivial roadblocks for everyone isnt right when the understanding has to be that the influence in decision isn’t centered around one group that doesn’t feel just in the reason it has has to be in the consideration of all which in turn can only be in generic or a generalized approach because it can’t be catered to one or even a couple it defeats our whole purpose in the governing of so many freedons we do have. Why make waves? It’s not necessary to use our proclaimed victimization as a step stone to get our way. It’s alot deeper than it appears right off hand. I rarely comment if ever on stories but I sat reading this and becoming overwhelmed and seeing it not in personal level or personal attack as your trying to mislead people to so to have the sympathy of it in your favor. It can go the other way also. In order to achieve the greater good our own personal wants or needs cant always be put first because it’ll provoke something in the end thats so far from what we truly had our intent set to..intent is so underestimated and under thought… It really has a nerve struck here and kinda went on a whole big response i didn’t see coming from myself especially being a soft spoken easy going person. I apologize if it’s to much or offended because it’s all opinion I suppose when you get down to it and I feel I wasnt critical or in opposition on the topic or a nay sayer of it just trying to bring a little light to another point of view I guess. Constructively from a mild similarity on sorta a close situation ive experienced I guess. Not in topic but in the series of events and possibilities.
      In closing,these are choices that are a big deal for adults to face and children are so impressionable and blossoming it only is a generator of more confusion and problems for youth. We all know how cruel kids can be to one another and it would likely open doors to more problems and more destructive behavior, there’s just so many other unknowns thst could become of This i dont feel we need to push it on them and find out. This would only ad to the questions most cannot answer or at least in an acceptable politically correct manner you expect. Plus there is alot of awkwardness and changes mentally and physically children face and are already experiencing aside from all the usual challenges that they are going threw.This isn’t something we need to put on them to greatly further difficulty. I get it there is unique individual situations that should be handled as just that but in a basis of occurrence. I just know my children have had tough times and this is gonna create more difficulty for their precious innocence that this jeapordizes. There is so much struggle in it all just let it be an adult choice of struggle not something for a kid who isn’t really even legally allowed to make life changing decisions for themselves hence the fact it takes 18 years to be able to by law be creditable in making choices. It’s because we don’t fully understand the magnitude of cause and effect or have had development in our brains to apply logical reasoning and deep comprehension of our actions….maybe I read to far into this maybe not if your still reading at this point i thank for your time in reading my response. And I’m in no way trying to be critical or one wayed actually the opposite …thank you

  6. As a Transwoman AND A Drag Queen, I thank Jeff Scott for standing with these two awesome Queens. One of whom I consider family. I hope some of us other Queens get the chance to do it as well.

  7. I was shocked and appalled as well to hear what our Mayor of Sparks, NV said. How can anyone in this day and age be so blatantly ignorant? His comments did not border on hate speech..it was pure hate speech in my opinion. I am going as far to say that if he doesn’t publicly apologize to these wonderful people, who are doing our city a favor, that he be recalled.

    • I doubt the mayor meant to put down transgender people. He probably meant transvestite and as an older person shouldn’t be torn apart because he doesn’t know the terminology of every subculture that is only recently becoming more known. The hate is on both sides, saw on KRNV FB page people calling Sparks residents white trash. I grew up in Reno/Sparks. It’s not San Francisco, but since Mayor Schieve started calling it Silicon Valley East, all the newbies from the Bay Area expect everyone to adjust immediately to diversity that didn’t exist here before. We are all supposed to know the latest terminology and nuances and be instantly comfortable with things we may have not encountered previously. I think we will be a logistics/warehousing place, not a tech place in the long run and the Bay Area people will move on, so a lot of this current clash won’t matter in the bigger picture. People love coming to Nevada, putting the locals down while they’re here briefly, and then leaving the place. We are used to being put in our place by the condescending invaders of the moment. I have been here before them and I will still be here when they move on.

  8. It’s one of those revealing conditions associated with the lengthening human lifespan. As we live longer and longer, we feel uncomfortable with “the latest” unveiling of human behavior – if not nature. In short, some of us outlive our relevance, if not our usefulness.

  9. The mayor should immediately apologize. He has lost our support and the city leadership remaining silent we will hold accountable.

    The religious people involved in this are already defaming gay people and spewing their hate.

  10. Mayor Ron Smith should not promote his personal opinions in his official capacity. While I am sure there were complaints about the event at the library, I am sure there will be many who support it. This event is a matter of freedom of speech. Freedom to express one’s self. Not everyone agrees with everything he does either. Like him, I do not have a poll of the whole City of Sparks. Let’s hope he attends this event. He might learn something. After all, it is our library system!

  11. I read about this this morning and couldn’t believe my ears at what our Mayor of Sparks, NV said. I am so glad to have just read this opinion and call to action. Thank you 🌈💜 because that was pretty embarrassing for all of the Sparks citizens.

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