The Council debates the merits and relevance of story time | Local News


The Mayor of the Town of Ketchikan, Dave Kiffer, was absent from the meeting.

The motion was proposed by council member Riley Gass, who along with council member Jai Mahtani voted in favor of the proposal.

There were almost two hours of public comment mostly focused on the story time by 13 people speaking against the event and 16 people speaking in favor of the event.

Gass began the council’s discussion of the event by reading his written comments about story time. He referenced the book meant to be read by drag queen Luna at the event, “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish.”

He pointed out that the book was sponsored by the Drag Queen Storyhour group founded in San Francisco in 2015.

Gass continued, citing information on the band’s website.

“Their goals include capturing the imagination and play of childhood gender fluidity and giving kids glamorous, positive and unapologetically queer role models,” it read.

He also noted that information from the group indicates that the organized reading events are aimed at children aged 3 to 11.

Gass went on to say that “the city should not promote or advocate for events whose purpose is to normalize gender fluidity in young children. The city should provide a safe environment for all people in public spaces. However, sponsorship, publicity and advocacy of LGBT worldviews and goals should not be the focus of city government or its entities.

He also noted that he doesn’t think such an event should be held in a space paid for by taxpayers who might disagree with the purpose of the Drag Queen Storytime.

Council member Janalee Gage reminded her fellow council members that in 2020 she requested that a non-discrimination policy be added to the municipal code, which was approved by council.

She explained that she saw this policy addition as necessary, as there are still many local circumstances in which some people receive the message that they should “be seen and not heard”.

Also, people often get the message that “we will decide what you can and cannot do”.

She also mentioned that certain groups of people are treated as if their taxes do not have the same value as the taxes of other members of the community.

She said proof that the equal rights policy is still needed is the existence of the motion to scrap Drag Queen story time.

“The protection of marginalized groups in my hometown is of utmost importance,” she said.

She also addressed questions that had been raised regarding the library event and why it was designed to focus on children. Children start comparing themselves to others at a young age, trying to figure out how they fit in or not, Gage explained.

“When kids see a variety of people leading healthy lives, whether LGBTQ+ or even disabled, they see that anything is possible, that you can be whoever you choose to be,” Gage said.

She also spoke about the dangers for LGBTQ+ people and how they can be bullied, attacked and even killed in an atmosphere of non-inclusion.

“The removal of this drag queen event from the library would be a direct violation of Ketchikan’s anti-discrimination ordinance and a violation of civil rights,” Gage said.

Council member Lallette Kistler said she saw two relevant issues with the motion to remove story time.

The first was to determine if the “LGBTQ+ community is an acceptable member of the community. Well, of course they are, they are people,” she said.

She added that the question the council had before them was not whether LGBTQ+ people are valid members of the community, but rather, “is a drag queen appropriate for story time? ?”

Kistler said that she, along with many people she knows, has always viewed a drag queen as a “sex character.”

She spoke of Luna’s alter-ego as someone she has known for many years, describing him as a “lover”. Kistler said she talked about the story time event with him and “he relieved a lot of my worries.”

She said she concluded the event would not be harmful to the community, although she understands it might be “disturbing to some people”.

Board member Abby Bradberry said she attended the library’s advisory board meeting on June 9, which helped her understand why library staff felt story time was important for the community.

She repeated a quote from board member Maureen Eldridge at that meeting, which Bradberry said summed up the problem: “The library is for everyone, but not the whole library is for everyone. The public can choose the books they borrow and the programs they want to attend. Parents make these choices for children and families.

Council member Jai Mahtani said he had heard valid arguments from both sides of the question regarding the Drag Queen story time.

“This community includes all groups,” Mahtani said. “If it’s Indigenous, if it’s LGBTQ, Indian business owners – straight, gay.”

He said he struggled to know what to make of the event.

For him, he said, “the main thing is the children”.

He said his research into the events of the drag queen’s history left him perplexed.

He said he concluded that due to the young age of the children and the fact that no solid conclusion could be reached as to how the event might affect them, he felt they must be overreacting. of caution.

Council member Judy Zenge said she spoke about the event with many members of the community and said, “I think it was a parental decision. We should, as parents, choose what our children participate in.

She added: “I guess I really believe that if you don’t want your child to leave, if you’re worried that seeing a little bit of glitter is going to change your child sexually, then, yeah, you should probably stay home. You probably shouldn’t take your child there.

Zenge said she wouldn’t support the motion to cancel the event because “I think it’s very discriminatory and I’m really embarrassed to be sitting here knowing we have to deal with this.”

She added: “It really – maybe because of some of the things I do – affected me deeply, and I think as a body it’s not for us to say to the library what to do.”

Echoing Gage’s point, she also said members of the LGBTQ community also pay taxes to support the library.

Vice Mayor Mark Flora said that by listening to feedback from community members on both sides of the issue, he saw the validity of these arguments. He also shared his own perspective as a parent of adult children.

“I would not take my child to this event to be exposed to queer-positive role models,” he said. “I would not take my child to this event if they were portrayed as promoting heteronormative role models.”

He said he actually wouldn’t take his child to an event advertised as promoting models from a “specific box you want to stuff someone in.”

The bigger question, he said, is whether the board should investigate the library’s actions because the staff did not violate any policies. Another thing to consider is that if the motion is approved, this litigation could be a risk, Flora said.

He said the relevant question the board should consider is whether the body has legal standing to force the library to cancel the event.

“I haven’t seen a compelling argument to support canceling this,” Flora said.


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