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'Love is love': Allies support Collingwood's drag-queen storytime

‘Collingwood is going to be known as the place to feel safe and included,’ says Rainbow Club of South Georgian Bay president

A demonstration of love and inclusivity took over the entrance to the Collingwood Public Library on Friday morning.

More than 100 demonstrators showed up to show support for a drag-queen storytime event slated to take place at the library.

Drag performers Fay Slift and Fluffy Souffle read stories to children at the library as part of PA Day programming.

This marked the third time the library has held the annual event, and the second time in person.

Although there had been chatter online that protesters would be in attendance, no obvious protesters were at the event.

Instead, the demonstration turned out to be completely in support.

Collingwood resident Marcia Alderson pushed online to inform people of the planned demonstration.

“Anybody that is going to try to bully a marginalized group is not OK. Nobody is going to get bullied in Collingwood. They have to go through me first,” she said.

Alderson said the opposition she’s seen online to drag queen story times isn’t based in fact, calling it “veiled hate.”

“Give me a break. This is pure hate disguised as other things,” she said.

Protests against family-friendly drag events have been erupting in municipalities across Ontario, and the country, for months.

Locally, drag-queen storytime events in Orillia, Midland and Springwater have been met with vocal opposition, harassment, and threats to library staff.

A Facebook post by the Collingwood library promoting the event posted May 9 received so many comments in opposition, library shut off commenting. Library chief executive officer Ashley Kulchycki said leading up to the event that she had received phone calls, emails, and one in-person complaint about the event.

While two plainclothes police officers were in attendance Friday as a precaution, the event went off without a hitch.

Kayra Deluna also posted about the demonstration on her social media. The Collingwood resident is part of a Facebook group called Drag Queen Storytime Guardians, whose purpose is to attend story times at libraries across Ontario to support the events. When she saw opposition to an event in her own town, she said she was disappointed.

“It’s not surprising. As an openly gay woman in the community, I see it all the time on social media where people can hide behind their keyboards,” she said. “It’s mostly ignorance.”

The large turnout Friday warmed Deluna’s heart.

“It’s incredible. I’m also not surprised. Pride Collingwood has done an incredible job of bringing people together,” she said. “Love is love.”

John Miller, president of the Rainbow Club of South Georgian Bay, was also in attendance Friday.

“My mandate for the Rainbow Club is to make Collingwood the most inclusive place,” he said. “Over the course of this year, the number of people who have moved to Collingwood because of our pride festival ... we have to do things like this to ensure people who have moved here feel safe.

“Going forward, Collingwood is going to be known as the place to feel safe and included.”

Collingwood library board chair Mariane McLeod attended the demonstration in support of library staff.

“Every member of the library board 100 per cent supported having this event happen,” she said.

“There was never a question of whether we would go ahead, because that’s not who we are. Education, openness and inclusivity are the values we espouse and embrace here. I’m proud to be part of this town.”

Fay Slift and Fluffy Souffle said prior to the event that although they have been doing story times for more than seven years across Ontario, sometimes the negative comments get under their skin.

“It would be dishonest to say it didn’t affect us. It certainly has an impact hearing the same sort of vitriol, hate and tropes bandied about that do not relate at all to what we do,” Slift said.

“In seeing what we arrived to this morning with the outpouring from the community here in Collingwood — we’ve been embraced by this community. What we see in action is more powerful than those words.

“It was wonderful.”