Drag queen story time stirs debate in Evansville

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Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library is welcoming drag queens to read stories to kids. The program is two months away but causing some controversy this week.

Library director Cyndee Landrum says people have been asking for Drag Queen Story Hour more than a year.  The international initiative is catching on across the country as a way to teach acceptance and self-expression.

“Healthy debate is always good debate,” said Landrum, addressing the pushback. “Whether we agree or disagree, I think that is super positive.”

Landrum understands the program may not be for everybody, but she is excited to see the response. So is LGBTQ supporter, Maxwell Hedon.

“Something like this just shows these kids that we’re here, we’re queer, it’s okay to be you,” Hedon said.

Evansville City Councilman Justin Elpers (R -Ward 5) stands firmly against it.

“I consider that to be very confusing for [kids] and there’s other ways for the LGBT community to educate people about diversity,” he said over the phone Monday.

Elpers is a social studies teacher at Harrison High School. His post on Facebook late last week has generated hundreds of comments. He believes there are better ways to teach kids about acceptance.

“It is totally inappropriate for that age,” he said. “There are things we can do for certain age groups, and this is not one of them.”

Elpers says he is an LGBTQ supporter, but Hedon doesn’t see the downside of exposing kids to different walks of life.

“I think it’ll help kids that are questioning, I think it’ll help kids that need to work on acceptance, to practice their empathy muscles.”

The American Library Association supports libraries across the country holding these story hours.

Stories are picked by the library and the local drag queen volunteers are trained by library staff. It is scheduled in Evansville for February 23 at the North Park library at 10 a.m.

Landrum says you can expect exceptional storytelling. “It’s the library, we have materials that run the gamut of points of view, some yes, no, maybe so, that’s what our role is.”

Elpers says he kept his post professional, but most comments have devolved to name-calling. “I’m not going to back down,” he said. “I have conviction.”

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This story was originally published on December 17, 2018

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