About a month ago, while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, “liking” silly memes and various gifs, I came across a post that immediately caught my attention and stopped me in my tracks.
The Springwater Public Library had shared a post indicating a presentation they had planned for that evening to update council about the goings-on at the local branches had been cancelled “due to safety concerns.”
The reporter in me immediately went to the township’s website to look for the agenda, hoping against hope that my gut feeling as to the reason behind the cancellation would be wrong.
It was not.
After scrolling through the first few pages of the library’s presentation, mixed among the many other amazing programs and offerings available thanks to the hard work of library staff, I found the reason. It was plans for an upcoming Drag Queen Storytime.
My heart sank, because what I had suspected was true.
Staff were being harassed, bullied and berated for plans to offer a new program that — in my not-so-humble opinion — is a fun and inclusive way to let all members of the community know they are welcome.
I am dumbfounded as to what people think is happening during these events. Like every performer, these queens are well aware of who their audience is. It’s not like they think they are performing a burlesque show at their local library branch. They are there to read children’s stories and join in on family-friendly activities in an environment where they will simply be wearing glitter. And who doesn’t love glitter!?
This event is one that has been held for several years, both in Barrie as well as other local communities and abroad.
While Barrie Public Library CEO Lauren Jessop tells me the city's library events have mostly gone on uninterrupted, that has not been the case in places like Midland and Orillia, where protesters came and expressed their “displeasure” — and, yes, hate — by attempting to bully people out of attending.
Springwater Public Library CEO Jodie Player Delgado told me at the time that staff had received multiple unpleasant and harassing phone calls, so she decided to pull the presentation out of an abundance of caution in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Springwater Township Mayor Jennifer Coughlin was also forced to field calls and emails from people voicing their anger over the event.
After chatting with the both Player Delgado and Coughlin recently, I learned that many of the threats were from individuals who either didn’t even live in this community, or who, despite their alleged strong feelings and opinions on the topic, were too cowardly to put their money where their mouths were and identify themselves.
If this is something you are that passionate about, put on your big kid pants and stand behind it. Don’t hide behind a keyboard or blocked telephone number and spout your hate.
Given the reaction to similar events in other communities — including protests outside the Midland Public Library in March and in Orillia last summer — I suppose this kind of negative behaviour shouldn’t come as a surprise. But it sure does make me both angry and sad.
As someone who has attended many, many amazing drag shows over the years, I feel like the world has been going in reverse lately. I guess it was naive of me to think that by 2023 this hateful thinking and behaviour would be a thing of the past, and that the world my children would grow up in would be one of acceptance and inclusion.
As is your right with anything in life, everything comes down to choice.
If you don’t like a specific book, don’t read it.
Don’t like what’s on the television? Change the channel.
If there is an event you don’t want to attend, guess what? You don’t have to go! What you do not have the right to do, however, is make threats to try to stop others from enjoying something they are choosing for themselves.
Coughlin has said she plans on attending the Drag Queen Storytime with her three daughters when the time comes ... and I plan to do the same.
We will go not only to support our local library and the many amazing things the staff do for our community, but also to support our 2SLGBTQ+ population in Springwater and around the region.
Nikki Cole is a staff reporter at BarrieToday.