Despite controversy, Kelowna library’s Drag Queen Story Time grows in popularity

Kelowna's Drag Queen Story Time is growing in popularity despite the controversy surrounding it. Jules Knox reports.

Drag Queen Story Time at Kelowna’s library is attracting attention from both advocates and adversaries.

An estimated 300 people crammed into the library’s storytime space to read stories and sing with drag queen Freida Whales on Saturday.

This is the second Drag Queen Story Time at Kelowna’s library, and support is quickly spreading.

READ MORE: ‘Drag Queen Story Time’ debate in Kelowna

“I’d say it’s looking like we tripled our numbers,” said Monica Gaucher, Okanagan Regional Library’s public services director.

“It’s amazing. There’s such enthusiasm happening here.”

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Two people also showed up outside to protest the event.

“I support raising kids with traditional values because the science is in on that, and we don’t know what happens to kids who do this,” protester Austin Furgason said.

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“People are turning their kids into social experiments, in my opinion.”

‘Drag Queen Story Time’ debate in Kelowna
‘Drag Queen Story Time’ debate in Kelowna

Library CEO Don Nettleton also wrote a letter to the board, saying that the event will be offensive to a significant segment of society.

He recommended that the board approve a policy that said children’s programming should be “acceptable by the bulk of society (aimed at the middle of the road) to avoid controversy and be as well accepted in the community as possible.”

However, this view has divided the library’s management team.

“I stand on the other side of that memo, and as librarians, we will defend the Charter of Rights,” Gaucher said. “We will defend freedom to speak.

“We are a space of freedom of information and freedom to access information. I always laugh; I say, ‘we have something in our library to offend everyone.'”

READ MORE: ‘It’s a man’s world’: Drag kings vying for their place in the spotlight

Central Okanagan school board trustee Norah Bowman said the event was a perfect example of sharing and community building.

“I trust our librarians, and I knew that our librarians would stand up for literacy and inclusivity,” she said.

Brooke Lynn Hytes, The first Canadian on Ru Paul’s Drag Race
Brooke Lynn Hytes, The first Canadian on Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Whales, meanwhile, said the support has been overwhelming.

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“It makes me almost cry. I almost cried the other day just seeing all the community support, all the messages from the community and families that I’m getting,” they said.

The library board is holding a meeting on Nov. 20 when it will decide whether or not to enact a policy that could stop events like Drag Queen Story Time from happening.

But Freida Whales is optimistic the board won’t side with its CEO.

“The next one’s going to be bigger and better. We’re already planning it,” Whales said.