Drag Queen Storytime Event Prompts Calls for Dueling Protests in Royal Oak, MI

March 10, 2023

On Saturday, March 11, 2023 the Sidetrack Bookshop in Royal Oak, Michigan is scheduled to host a Drag Queen Storytime event organized by the Metro Detroit-based group “The Divas of Detroit.”

The Divas of Detroit label themselves as a drag group focused on diversity, inclusivity, and creating new experiences in the Metro Detroit area. This event experience is billed as a book reading geared towards children ages 3-9. The books that will be read highlight inclusion and acceptance according to the group.

The event has sparked a backlash online and has created calls for protest. In itself, there is nothing wrong with a private bookstore hosting a private organization for a private event so willing adults can read books to children with the consent of their parents. But in this case, the adults reading the books look, dress, and act like this:

This is yet another clash between traditional norms and modern attempts to shift them. How do we begin to process these calls for protest given the situation? The protests that are being called for are not geared so much towards opposing the right of the private entities to engage in the activity on their private property as much as they are opposing the activity in itself as part of a larger, moral and ideological argument concerning standards of decency and treatment of minors in society. In this sense, the protests are more about “should” rather than “can.” A Facebook group called “Michigan’s 11th Congressional District Republican Committee” (Royal Oak is in the 11th Congressional District) framed their calls for protest this way:

The focus is on the notion these drag queens are part of a bigger phenomenon called the “grooming” and the “sexualization” of children. Nobody knows how these particular drag queens will dress or act at this specific event, and nobody can accuse these specific drag queens of any directly inappropriate acts towards the children since the event has not happened yet. Parents too have a general right to bring their children to events they deem safe and valuable. The protests seem to be regarding the nature of the activity itself and its alleged negative impact on children and society. So long as the demonstrations remain peaceful and on public property, there is nothing wrong with such protests. Similarly, counter-protesters have been called for and their numbers may be substantial, given Royal Oak is an extremely liberal area:

Looking at the rhetoric and tone of the potential counter-protesters online, it is clear they take the protests personal. If the protesters can be accused of hate and bigotry for their beliefs, certainly the counter-protesters can too. This is because too often the focus is on the people and the activity and perceived stereotypes instead of the heart of the relevant arguments.

A survey of internet comments on the protest page reveals the counter-protesters focus on the perceived bigotry of the protesters, accusations of hypocrisy, denial of “grooming,” and the notion people ought to be free to do as they please.

Much of their commentary and criticism focuses on the idea that those protesting “grooming” and sexual abuse/exploitation in such situations ignore abuse and sexualization elsewhere in society, especially within the Church and Christian-oriented organizations:

Christianity is a common target of pro-drag queen memes. Using old photos of characters dressed in drag, like Bugs Bunny, is another common tactic to make the practice seem like nothing new. Modern practice and historical practice are completely different in nature and intent, making such comparison invalid.

Of course, such accusations are pure fallacy and do not help determine the merits of the argument at hand. It is possible to oppose child abuse in all its forms and in all circumstances.

Popular internet memes often resort to obfuscation to blur the lines of criticism to distract from the real arguments against drag activites geared towards minors.

Another common fallacy perpetuated by the counter-protesters is to suggest if the protesters really cared about the children, they would focus on gun control, removing guns from society, or would not be armed themselves:

It is lost on the people that make these types of comments that the argument against the behavior in question is tied into the larger argument regarding the moral deterioration of society and its impact on levels of violence and other negative socioeconomic factors. They may not agree with such arguments, but they should not ignore them. Views on Second Amendment rights are irrelevant to the argument at hand.

Often the alleged dangers of “grooming” were simply downplayed in the comments, which is not an argument itself but is indicative of the lax attitude many have towards the activity and its impact on children. Some commentors did come close to addressing the “grooming” accusations in themselves, and the protesters responded:

The last two comments highlighted above are particularly telling. On the one hand, we have a claim there is no grooming of children. On the other hand we have a statement from a person claiming to work with children that reports a myriad of gender-related activity children are engaged in that would only have come about so quickly via prompting and training by adults. These ideas were not present in the minds of children of previous generations in the forms they are now and they certainly were not normalized. So which is it? There is no “grooming,” or there is “grooming” but it is a good thing? That is beyond the scope of this article – and these protests. The protests are useful only insofar as they express the idea of dissent to an activity of great importance. Similarly, the counter-protests have the same value. Hopefully it is kept peaceful if not constructive towards fostering a dialogue for understanding in the future.

Sidetrack Bookshop, Royal Oak, MI

I do not expect many minds to be changed coming out of these protests, and in my opinion, like Kevin mentions in the comment below, it seems they would be better suited for such drag queen storytimes on public property facilitated with public money because then at least it is concerning something directly related to the protesters. But it isn’t up to me or anyone else to determine when, where, or what to protest or via what means so long as it is legal. It is an American right and it is great to see the spirit of protest alive and well.

If you are planning to attend this event and/or these protests, please stay peaceful and courteous and don’t be this disgusting person:

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