By Sarah Quale — Drag queen story hours are popping up in libraries across the country. Are they isolated events or part of a larger, intentional movement to destroy God’s design for the human person? A small library in a southern Maryland town provides some insight into how this battle has advanced, who’s behind it, how it’s funded, and what local communities can do to effectively respond.
God’s design: A wholistic view of personhood
Underneath what the pro-life movement calls “the culture of death” is a dark, tangled mess of spiritual brokenness. The symptoms of this brokenness—whether they present as abortion, euthanasia, fractured families, human trafficking, pornography, homosexuality, or gender dysphoria—reveal to us the presence of a much larger sickness and a much bigger target. They show us the tragic consequences of sin and of rejecting God’s design for the human person. To destroy the human made in the image of God—to destroy inherent value, dignity, and thus, personhood—the Enemy must systematically dismantle each of God’s design elements—life, marriage, family, sexuality, and gender (Genesis 1:26-28). What we are witnessing everywhere in our culture today is a direct assault on these elements.
Much of this destructive work has been accomplished over the last century in America, but the goal of the new sexual revolution raging around us today is to finish the job. This battle has erupted in a rather unlikely place, at least for those who still view America’s traditional institutions with hope and nostalgia. A small library in a southern Maryland town provides some insight into how this battle has advanced, who’s behind it, how it’s funded, and what local communities can do to effectively respond.
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Discovery and exposure
The Lexington Park Library in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, first came under fire in March of 2017 when local homeschool mom, Georgia Kijesky, discovered that several libraries were planning to host a graphic sex-ed workshop for 12–17-year-old children. The workshop was co-sponsored by the libraries and the Southern Maryland Area Secular Humanists (SMASH). It was promoted as strictly kids-only and led by Bianca Palmisano, a Planned Parenthood-certified sex educator, author of Safer Sex for Trans Bodies, and founder of Intimate Health Consulting. As a result of Kijesky’s efforts to expose the workshop and pressure the county commissioning boards, the St. Mary’s County Library Board of Trustees cancelled the workshop at Lexington Park and issued a press release. However, SMASH later revived the effort, and the workshop was held without official library sponsorship.
Fast forward to September, 2017, when Kijesky discovered the sexually explicit instruction manual, The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality, presented alongside similar books in Lexington Park’s teen section. The display was part of Banned Books Week—an annual event organized by the American Library Association to combat censorship. Kijesky again took her concerns to a St. Mary’s County Board of Commissioners public forum, which triggered a larger effort to change the way the library board of trustees is governed and held accountable to the taxpayers. More on that later.
A few years before Kijesky’s exposure of her local library’s involvement in LGBTQ activism, San Francisco was birthing a new phenomenon that she would eventually come face to face with: The drag queen story hour (DQSH). According to Drag Queen Story Hour, the non-profit group that jumpstarted the initiative, bringing costumed drag queens into libraries to read to young children and their parents “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” DQSHs have expanded into Drag 101—workshops that “demonstrate the art of creating a character, costuming, and applying makeup” to tweens and teens. As the movement has grown, serious controversy has erupted in small-town America.
The backlash and the money trails
DQSHs and Drag 101 events have seen a sustained backlash of petitions and protests from Christian communities, resulting in cancellations in several states, including Ohio, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky. The events have sometimes served as doorways for sex offenders to gain access to children, made evident by recent reports in Texas and Ohio, where library board officials revealed there were no background checks in place to vet any of the performers.
Some of these events are paid for by the libraries themselves, through funds provided by the American Library Association (which stem from taxpayer-funded federal grants). Libraries also use state and local taxpayer money to host and promote the events. In other instances, the events are privately funded, but most event sponsors take advantage of federal grants from the CDC for comprehensive sex education and HIV prevention. In these cases, community healthcare organizations and LGBTQ-advocacy groups use CDC grant money to bring the events into libraries. An example of this relationship was recently uncovered in Ohio, when Equitas Health used part of its HIV prevention grant from the CDC to support a Drag 101 event at the Licking County Library. The event was promoted as a “safe-sex for teens” workshop by the Newark Ohio Pride Coalition. It was cancelled after a large public outcry led to the Ohio House Speaker’s involvement in shutting it down.
When communities across the United States first became aware of DQSHs, the media reported the backlash surrounding the events, and the events themselves, as isolated and disconnected. Only now are we beginning to see the movement’s intentional progress over time. But missing from this overarching storyline are the deep alliances forged between the LGBTQ community and the American Library Association (ALA), which has received over $20 million in taxpayer money over the past 10 years.
Not isolated, but organized
The backbone of the LGBTQ community’s alliance with the American library system is firmly structured within the massive ALA organization, including, but not limited to, the:
- Office of Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services
- Freedom to Read Foundation
- Office for Intellectual Freedom
- Intellectual Freedom Committee
- Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Roundtable
The roundtable provides tools and resources to promote acceptance of the LGBTQ lifestyle through the American library system and recommends reading lists for libraries with “significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning content, aimed at children and youth from birth to age 18.” These reading materials, when challenged by parents like Kijesky, are defended by the other parts of the system, under the banner of anti-censorship.
To answer the backlash over DQSHs and Drag 101 events, the ALA created its #LibrariesRespond campaign to provide policy materials and resources to “defend pride at the local library.” The ALA also released an FAQ on responding to and preparing for controversial events and speakers.
To help librarians promote acceptance of the LGBTQ lifestyle and DQSHs in resistant communities, the ALA published a blog post on how to be a “secret librarian advocate operative.” The post was written by Tess Goldwasser, a former member of the ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Roundtable and a librarian in St. Mary’s County—the very library system Kijesky had exposed. Goldwasser’s suggestions included taking careful steps to bring Roundtable-approved materials into the library and inviting local secular humanist, PFLAG, and GLADD chapters to host programs that distort God-designed sexuality and gender. “So you’re not doing drag queen story hour (yet), but you’re probably doing regular old story time, right?” prompted Goldwasser. “Try to ‘sneak’ inclusive messages into your current programs. For instance, if you’re reading a story about a Mama Bear and a Papa Bear…just change it to be about 2 Papa Bears!” she wrote.
Update (6/17/19): The ALA has since scrubbed Goldwasser’s name from the byline of the article because of the attention this research has brought upon the ALA and the St. Mary’s County library’s upcoming DQSH. More information on that DQSH is below. Click here to see the cached article with the byline.
This intentional, under-the-radar work is occurring right now in towns all across America, guided by the ALA. But in Kijesky’s situation in southern Maryland, the battle there has taken a sharp turn.
Loopholes and lawlessness
After the pushback against the sex-ed workshop and the pornographic book display in 2017—events that were defended by the St. Mary’s County Library Board of Trustees—Kijesky and other local activists urged their elected officials to pass House Bill 136 to bring the library board under the governance of the St. Mary’s County Commissioners. Up to that time, the library board was the only board in the county without any external accountability, even though the library is a taxpayer-funded entity.
Kijesky and others fought hard, but after intense pressure from the Left, the accountability language in HB 136 was gutted, keeping the power solely in the hands of the board members. The citizens of St. Mary’s County continue to have no say and no control over the decisions made by this ungoverned board, which is made up of the very people who brought the sex-ed workshop to St. Mary’s County in the first place.
A direct challenge
The St. Mary’s County Library Board of Trustees has since adopted a meeting room policy, based on published ALA strategies, that provides immunity for controversial speakers and events. This policy makes it impossible for community pressure to result in cancellations. Now, SMASH has “reserved a meeting room according to library policy” to bring DQSH and Drag 101 to the Lexington Park Library on Sunday, June 23rd. As of publication of this article, the event has yet to appear on the library’s public calendar.
How can the people of Southern Maryland respond?
Georgia Kijesky is now the leader of the Personhood Alliance affiliate Personhood Maryland, whose mission is to “engage in activism that preserves and defends the Family and Christianity—both of which are obviously being heavily persecuted in Maryland,” says Kijesky. Plans are underway for a prayer vigil outside the Lexington Park Library on Sunday, June 23rd, along with other efforts to bring light to what’s happened there. “Even though we can’t get this upcoming event cancelled, we can still stay one step ahead,” says Kijesky. “We can educate people on where this movement is headed, and we can organize watchmen here in Maryland to continue to expose the systems put in place to bring these direct, sustained attacks on God’s design.”
What can the average person do?
We now know that holding DQSHs, sex-ed workshops, and other LGBTQ-promoting events at libraries is part of a much larger, taxpayer-funded agenda. So what can the average person do? Here are some actions you can take in your community:
- Check the following links to see if your state has a chapter of DQSH, PFLAG, the American Humanist Society, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and Planned Parenthood Generation Action. Subscribe to their email lists so you have advanced knowledge of what’s coming.
- Not every library advertises DQSH, so look for promotions on local news websites and in community newspapers. Check for flyers posted on community boards in your local coffee shop or grocery store.
- Find out how your county library board of trustees is governed according to the laws in your state. Understand the chain of command. Know your rights and theirs.
- If you discover an event, raise awareness in your community. Speak at public forums and city council meetings, create a petition drive, or write a letter to the editor in your local paper.
- Contact your mayor’s office to see if they are willing to help you. If you do not have a mayor, find out which elected officials are responsible for overseeing the library finances and appointing members to the Library Board of Trustees. Get in touch with those officials.
- Call the library to voice your concerns. Be respectful but firm, and let them know you are mobilizing the community against the event.
- Create and hand out flyers outside the library—a few weeks before the event, if possible.
- If the event is not cancelled, organize a prayer vigil or peaceful protest on the day of the event and pull in your state or local pro-life/pro-family group to help.
Sign the petition on LifeSite News
We partnered with LifeSite News to publish a petition to tell the American Library Association to stop using taxpayer dollars to push DQSH on our children. Click here to sign the petition, which we’ll deliver directly to the ALA’s offices in DC.
What can the Church as a whole do?
Christians must recognize that the gender revolution, like any Progressive social movement, reaches out to remove children from the influence of the Word of God and replace biblical truth with moral relativism. Relativism is the common thread woven into all efforts to destroy the image of God in the human person. The Witherspoon Institute gives us critical insight here:
“Humanity cannot escape the limits inscribed upon it. It is impossible to transgress biological boundaries stamped on human nature without the basic categories of human existence unraveling…There are no boundaries to the sexual and gender revolutions; only the wake of human carnage that results from suppressing the truth.”
Some people have a real, painful struggle with their gender and sexuality, not because there is no absolute truth, but because sin has corrupted everything and we must reject it (Romans 6:12). The answer to this struggle with sin is not to suppress the truth and live as we choose. It is to submit to Jesus’s sacrificial act of freeing us from the slavery of sin. It is to bury the old Self and walk transformed into the newness of life (Romans 6:4). It is to walk beside struggling people with both grace and truth, and point them to the only Answer to their pain and confusion.
This is the power of the Gospel.
Sarah Quale is president of Personhood Alliance Education, the educational arm of the Personhood Alliance, and the author of the Foundations online pro-life curriculum. She is a member of the International Christian Visual Media Association and Christian Women in Media and is the founder of Educe® online learning.
This article is also published on LifeSite News.