Last Monday, a group of right-wing protesters showed up to the public library in Des Moines, WA to protest Drag Queen Story Hour, an event the library was holding that day. The locus of their anger was Seattle drag queen Cookie Couture, who was meant to read Neither, a book about celebrating differences, to a group of children.
As they held up posters with out-of-context photos featuring Cookie both in and out of drag, the queen appeared unfazed as she talked with supporters and media outside, wearing sunglasses, a giant blonde wig, and a shimmery green dress.
In a photo taken by fellow Seattle queen Betty Wetter (which was then framed and gifted as a "thank you" to Cookie by R Place manager Floyd Lovelady and friend Bill Herlehy), she is pictured from the back enthusiastically reading to a giant group of children. About Neither, she said in a KING 5 interview, “The core of it is all about celebrating what makes us different.”
Many ignorant parents and right-wingers disagreed.
Over the past month, right-wing and conservative extremists have targeted drag queens across the country for their participation in Drag Queen Story Hour, an event series put on by libraries, where drag queens read children’s books to children. It began at the San Francisco Public Library in 2015 as way to give kids “glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” It eventually caught on in other cities because, well, people love drag queens. Even children!
But a quick search on Google reveals dozens of stories over the past weeks about “concerned parents” across the country protesting and doxxing queens, calling them “pedophiles” and accusing the queens of “grooming” these young people for an “unhealthy” gay lifestyle. Despite happening nearly two weeks ago, Cookie's face (both in and out of drag) is still plastered on protest signs and circulated online among local right-wing circles. She had to make her accounts private to prevent further harassment.
This wouldn’t be the first time that right-wingers have protested a Drag Queen Story Hour in the Puget Sound area. In September of last year, KIRO conservative radio host Dori Monson attacked the Renton Library and local drag queen Sparkle Leigh for participating in the program, calling it “straight up propaganda.” It’s a favorite of right-wing protesters because it involves things that closed-minded people fear: queers, the autonomy of their children, and reading.
These local protests drew national attention with local queen Baby being featured in a segment on Fox News.
Last Saturday, Renton Library’s Teen Pride event invited local drag entertainers Baby, Freeza D’Lust, Londyn Bradshaw, and Kylie Mooncakes to participate in a Q&A session and give an age-appropriate performance. Contrary to the misinformation the protestors are spewing, they did not teach 10 to 12-year-old kids about sex, rather, they answered questions about how they came up with their drag name and what type of drag each queen does.
On a phone call with Baby, she told me that the campaign against her started the Friday before the event on Saturday, even though she was only made aware of the posts on Sunday. Someone had created a video of content culled from Baby’s social media pages, compiling it into a megapost with other pictures.
“I found out there was a video montage made of me with a lot of my pictures from Instagram, which was actually, like—not going to lie—that video montage had some of my best moments on there,” she told me. “That’s like, promo. That doesn’t look bad.” And I’d honestly agree!
At the actual event, a mother from 500 Mom Strong (a Spokane-based anti-drag group) managed to record Baby’s performance to Lizzo’s “Like a Girl.”
“I feel like everything Lizzo makes is empowering,” Baby told me. “And one of my favorite lines in that song is 'If you feel like girl, then you real like a girl,' and I think it's a really beautiful song.” She also lip-synced to "Sugarland" by Baby Girl and cited both tracks as being “good numbers for the youth and the teens to hear.”
Even though the two mothers were eventually escorted out of the library by the police for recording the drag entertainers and attending without children, the video of Baby performing went viral in right-wing circles. Several users accused the library of allowing the queens to “striptease” for children after Baby did a cape and skirt reveal.
Other users accused Baby of glorifying violence against women, using a picture in the original megapost of Baby in drag with pie all over her face as justification. “I am a woman, so that doesn’t make much sense,” she told me. Baby is a trans woman and was repeatedly misgendered and called a pedophile in the comments section. Users posted links to her Instagram, as well as the other queens at the Teen Pride event (specifically Kylie Mooncakes and Freeza D'Luxe), doxxing them.
The video of Baby caused such a stir that it ended up on a Fox News segment, hosted by Martha MacCallum, which featured three mothers from 500 Mom Strong. They spewed a lot of homophobic and transphobic misinformation, with Kim Hall from 500 Mom Strong saying that “this group is coming for our children” and that they want to “groom our children into their unhealthy lifestyle.”
At one point, Hall said, “Look in your underpants, you’re a girl. Look in your underpants, you’re a boy. That’s not hard to understand,” after comparing children who are questioning their gender and sexuality to children who think they are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The furor continued on Thursday with a large protest outside the Fairwood Library near Renton during another Drag Queen Story Hour. According to the Renton Reporter, the protestors consisted of paramilitary militia the Three Percenters, members of the Proud Boys, and right-wing local media outlet Operation Cold Front. The supporters outnumbered the protestors, forming a human barrier to allow attendees to enter the library peacefully. The cover photo for the Renton Reporter story features a man holding up a sign with pictures of Baby, which the Reporter misidentifies as "erotica."
Baby admitted that she felt scared when all the posts began to flood her feed on Sunday, but received “endless messages” expressing support from friends, strangers, and teens and tweens who were at the actual Teen Pride event.
“Nothing I did was wrong, nothing I did was bad,” she told me. “If I’m invited and the library wants me to go and perform for kids, I’ll go and do that because I think so strongly that these queer youths need people to look up to.”
She told me that the hatred did not stop her from wanting to do drag. “These people can attack me all they want, they can sink their teeth in," she said. "I'm a lot stronger than I realized after this and I have a whole community here to support me—I’m not going anywhere.”