By Aydin Levy
March 3, 2023
On June 11th, 2022, 8-10 proud boys members disrupted a Drag Queen News Hour at the San Lorenzo Library. Drag Queen News Hour, a space created by Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions with help from Julián Delgado Lopera and Virgie Tovar, presents an opportunity for drag queens to read books to young children. It is imperative that youth see their identities represented early in their lives. In this way, a child is exposed to different communities and learns the value of realizing and accepting one's identity. The simple act of reading a book in a library allows kids to see the importance of being one's authentic self which has been a difficult reality to uphold given the uptick in hate crimes.
The discriminatory storming that occurred at San Lorenzo is extremely disappointing for myriad reasons. The men not only shouted slurs, but also wore shirts with hateful speech on them, and held the white power fist. The message this sends to the youth participants, who should grow up embracing their identity, is discerning. It reinforces the narrative that everyone must act and exist in a certain way. Although the disruption was meant to create fear, Panda Dulce, the Drag queen who was reading at the time, tells NBC Bay Area that she "continued the reading even though it was so scary because [she wants] kids to know even though they might get flack for being who they are, that they need to persist and that they are doing the absolute right thing showing up as their selves". Despite an attempt at shutting down the story hour, which is an occurrence that has happened to other Drag Queen News Hours, such as one in Campbell, CA, the significance of this event and the power that it holds is exposed. Panda’s resilience sends a message of the importance of self-love and the unapologetic embrace of one's identity.
LGBTQ+ censorship is no foreign reality. Incidents like the storming of the Drag Queen Story Hour correlate with the role of social media in the perpetuation of harassment, discrimination, disinformation, and censorship. Lt. Ray Kelly, speaking for the sheriff's office, stated to NBC, "we believe this was organized on social media and that there has been a sort of national trend of people organizing on social media against LGBTQ Pride month gatherings". Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), an organization working to create a more welcoming society, created an index on how well each social media platform cares for LGBTQ+ users and the ways in which these individuals could be potentially targeted through censorship or discriminatory ads, fake news, ect. The five most popular social media platforms received a failing grade, the lowest being TikTok at 43% and the highest Instagram, at 48%, though none reached above 50%. These disappointing numbers address the harsh reality that the LGBTQ+ community faces and how that reality is perpetrated by the media.
It is important to see the media’s role in the discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community and the ways silencing occurs. Social Media platforms must take accountability for the ways they censor and perpetuate false narratives and take next steps to uplift the voices of those previously suppressed. Additionally, it’s crucial that we all strive to encourage a more inclusive community and make sure every child feels represented and can safely be oneself.