In 2015, Michelle Tea worked with Julián Delgado Lopera and Virgie Tovar under her RADAR Productions banner to create Drag Story Hour, a safe space for drag queens to read stories to children in libraries in San Francisco. Eight years later, the program has expanded to libraries all over the country from California to Texas to Georgia to Florida to New York. The program have also expanded overseas to Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Japan.
In a time when harmless programs like these are under attack, Drag Story Hour does not let naysayers dim it shine. It continues to capture the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and queer role models. In addition, it gives kids a safe space where they can be their authentic selves.
We had the chance to chat with Jonathan Hamilt (or if you prefer his drag persona, Ona Louise), executive director of Drag Story Hour and co-founder of the NYC Chapter. He spoke about the impact of Drag Story Hour and what it means to get recognized by the GLAAD Media Awards.
When it was announced that Drag Story Hour was getting Special Recognition at the GLAAD Media Awards, what was the initial reaction?
We are very honored to be recognized by a huge non-profit such as GLAAD. With your voice and presence lifting up the work we do validates our work to the broader community and we couldn’t be more excited!
How has Drag Story Hour grown since its inception?
In 2015, We started as a small community group of trans women of color that perform in drag in the Castro in San Francisco to a national 501 c 3 non-profit with global chapters and inspired so many others to replicate the work we do .
Was there a specific moment when Drag Story Hour was having a significant impact on the LGBTQ community and beyond? If so, when was it?
Anytime we read for children and families is significant. We are so blessed to be welcomed with open arms from librarians, educators, parents, and caregivers, all across the country so that kids can an learn from LGBTQ+ stories and experiences to love themselves, celebrate the fabulous diversity in their communities, and stand up for what they believe in and each other.
Why are awards like the GLAAD Media Awards important for the LGBTQ community?
Awards like the GLAAD Media Awards are important because they recognize and celebrate media representations of the LGBTQ community. This type of representation is critical for raising awareness, promoting acceptance, and combating discrimination. Media has the power to shape cultural attitudes and influence public opinion, so recognizing positive depictions of the LGBTQ community can help to shift attitudes towards greater inclusivity and understanding.
The LGBTQ community is no stranger to being subject to legislative attacks and inequitable treatment — especially now with certain drag performances being banned in states. What kind of support has Drag Story Hour received since and how has it maintained its focus despite all the backlash?
We would be nothing without our extremely supportive community of brave storytellers, readers, volunteers, and organizers from around the world. We recently received a grant from the San Francisco Foundation to launch our Shields UP! Program. We will train and deploy the “Royal Guard” which will be our volunteer safety marshal program in de-escalation and safety contingency planning.
In what ways is Drag Story Hour planning on growing and expanding it scope of work its doing?
We are continuing to expand our chapter network creating diverse, accessible, and culturally-inclusive family programming where kids can express their authentic selves and become bright lights of change in their communities. We are increasing our security and safety of all our events and training people to take this safety even outside of our story hour events to all LGBTQ+ events.
What does this GLAAD Media Award represent for Drag Story Hour?
These awards provide a platform to showcase LGBTQ talent and highlight their contributions in advancing LGBTQ visibility and representation. To be given special recognition means that we are being seen as leaders and role models in the community. Drag On!
@dragstoryhour @vicenews Proud Boys stormed into a California library during a kids’ reading session and confronted a drag artist. It’s one of many attacks on the group throughout Pride month. #drag #dragqueen #dragqueenstoryhour #lgbt #pride #pridemonth ♬ original sound – Drag Story Hour