Members of the Apex Festival Commission and the town’s mayor drew the ire of many residents after it was announced that they had canceled a Drag Queen Story Hour event planned for the Apex Pride Festival, according to WRAL.
Equality NC announced on June 9 that they had become the festival’s new sponsor – and that Drag Queen Story Hour would be held, despite the threats and the cancellation announcement earlier in the week, CBS 17 reported.
According to a member of the Apex Town Council, there was more to the story than leaders folding to political pressure.
Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert made the announcement via Facebook on June 4, one week before the town’s Pride festivities were set to take place.
According to Gilbert, he said he received “a variety of feedback” about the Drag Queen Story Hour event from residents and passed that information along to the Apex Festival Commission. After receiving the feedback from the mayor, the commission made the decision to cancel the drag queen event as part of the town’s Pride celebration.
The mayor’s Facebook post claimed that the Drag Queen Story Hour “was not originally presented when the event was proposed.”
Gilbert’s post announcing the event’s cancelation received just under 400 comments in less than two days before he had to shut down commenting due to “disrespectful comments attacking others and hate speech.”
Some of the comments thanked Gilbert for taking the feedback to the commission and others said they were extremely disappointed.
“This was THE Pride event I was planning to attend with my toddler. Very disappointed in the event organizers who were swayed by hateful, misguided comments,” one parent wrote.
“So disappointed with this decision. This is the exact opposite of supporting and showing love to our LGBTQIA+ community. Shameful decision by all involved,” another person said.
In his comment announcing that he was shutting down commenting on the post, Gilbert said that he “will continue to love all members in our community as represented in the Pride proclamation that I was the first mayor of Apex to sign. I have very close family members of the LGBTQIA+ community who I love dearly. We will continue to make this a community that welcomes varying opinions.”
Some commenters said they intended to hold Drag Queen Story Hour events throughout the town in response to the decision and another person asked if any downtown businesses wanted to host an event during the Pride Festival.
Drag Queen Story Hour events are held throughout cities and towns across the country – and have, at times, caused controversy in some places.
Apex Town Council member Audra Killingsworth said in a comment on the mayor’s Facebook post that “violent threats” are what actually led to the cancellation of the event.
“We have had many emails sent to us at Council complaining about the drag story hour event. Multiple members of Apex Pride have been sent nasty emails, messages, etc.,” she wrote. “Over the past couple of weeks it has escalated to violent threats against multiple members of the Apex Festival Commission. Because of those threats, the commission decided to pull the drag queen story hour from the kids zone.”
Killingsworth went on to say, “I’m disappointed and frustrated, but I do want to have an amazing Pride event that is still going to feature drag performances on stage.”
According to WRAL, the Raleigh chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour was founded in 2019 by mom and LGBTQIA+ community advocate Mary Elise Chenoweth.
“There are all different kinds of people of different races, different sexualities and different identities, and our goal is that these kids see themselves in someone else – whether it’s a storybook character or one of our queens,” Raleigh chapter organizer Brittany Vann Hogin told WRAL in 2020. “There are kids in families or schools who have never seen someone like them before. That’s really what the main goal is: To make sure the kids feel seen and make them aware it’s okay to be different.”
The festival was held on June 11 in celebration of Pride Month.
Click here for more information on the Triangle chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour.