Despite a bit of spitting, name calling, parents will keep bringing kids to Drag Queen Story Hours

By: - September 6, 2022 8:00 am

(Provided by them, via a promotional site for Tall Tales with True Queens, a short film about the story hour.

Brittney Arnold was driving up the gravel road to ZooMT for the Drag Queen Story Hour event in Billings with her 11 year-old daughter and three friends in her Dodge Nitro when a wad of spit blotched the passenger side front window. 

Picketers tried to block the driveway leading to the zoo with signs, some reading “groomer walk of shame” and calling people names. 

Arnold, daughter of 406 Pride President Walt Donges, said she didn’t hesitate to bring the kids to the event, even in light of protestors. 

“[The picketers] told me I was gonna go to hell a couple times,” Arnold said. “I said, ‘Well as long as you’re not there, I guess I’ll be alright.’”

There has been an uptick of threats towards LGBTQ+ centric events nationwide, according to a report from the Washington Post, but parents in Montana said they are going to keep bringing their children to Drag Queen Story Hours, especially in light of the success of the events from this past summer.

Drag Queen Story Hour celebrates reading “through the glamorous art of drag” in the U.S. and beyond, as described on the chapter network’s website.

A couple of the story hours saw higher-than-anticipated and largely respectful turnout despite the threats. The advice from parents and a watchdog group is to show up in numbers. 

Director of Equality at the Montana Human Rights Network Shawn Reagor said that the people making these threats are few and far between, adding it’s not a Montana value. 

“The reason that the events are so well-attended is because people recognize that and are willing to stand up for what’s right,” he said. 

Elizabeth Miller, like Arnold, didn’t have any reservations when she brought her 12- and 10 year-old kids to the story hour in Helena in July. It was the first Pride event the kids had ever attended, and she said both of them thought it was “cool.”

She said one of the queens at the event was deaf and was using sign language, something her son is starting to pick up as one of his classmates uses sign language to communicate. 

“He was pretty excited to see that there were other people doing sign language too,” Miller said. 

Her advice for parents who might be on the fence about attending events that have been targeted? 

“We have to show our children that we can’t be scared of that kind of stuff,” she said, adding that parents also need to be aware of their surroundings. 

Reagor said that safety is the most important thing, but that there is safety in numbers.

“If you’re feeling a little bit nervous about going, then bring a friend and bring a group of people, and then you’re all there together and you’re much more likely to feel safe, as well as be safe,” he said. “And in addition to all of that, it’s just a lot of fun.”

Arnold also had this same advice, saying the support is important. She said Pride 406 hosts events, and groups can be found on social media. 

This wasn’t Arnold’s first time bringing her “very tomboy slash gender-fluid” 11-year-old to a pride event, saying she probably started bringing MJ to events when she was 4 years old. 

Arnold said MJ looks forward to Pride Week in Billings each year and enjoyed the event. 

Arnold herself was afraid for people’s safety during the drive in, worried that one of the protesters could have gotten hurt being in the road, close enough to spit. 

“They’re out there spitting on cars, and in the age of COVID, because that’s not over yet, I’m like ‘This is dangerous,’” she said. 

MJ’s reaction to the protesters? 

“She’s a wily child, so she flipped them off and called them stupid,” Arnold said. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.