A metro Atlanta drag queen invited to read to children at the library said he feels discriminated against after the Fulton library system removed “Drag Queen Story Time” from its events calendar.
Steven Igarashi-Ball, who performs in drag mostly for charity as Miss Terra Cotta Sugarbaker, said he is confused by the change because he was invited to perform by the staff at the Alpharetta library branch after they saw how successful the story time was at the Ponce de Leon Avenue branch inside the Perimeter.
“The community has made it clear that they want the event and the county canceled the event,” said Igarashi-Ball, a 40-year-old Buford native.
He said the library system decided to withdraw its promotion of the reading event, but will allow the event to go on at the Alpharetta library on April 27. He said the 180 spaces filled in less than an hour. Other story time events are still noted on the online calendar.
So far, no library or county officials have explained the calendar change. An assistant manager at the Alpharetta library branch, who declined to give his name, said Friday that the county speaks for the branch and declined to comment further. Spokeswoman for the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, which includes Alpharetta and Ponce de Leon branches, Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez said the event was not canceled.
Corbitt-Dominguez sent The Atlanta Journal-Constitution a statement similar to the one she gave Atlanta LGBTQ magazine Project Q, which first reported the story: “We appreciate the community support for the Drag Queen Story Time event, which has been successful and well received at the Ponce de Leon Library. We recommended to the organizer that it continue at the location where it has a strong track record. ... Not every program is offered at every location.”
“Drag Queen Story Hour” is a national movement that began in San Francisco and entails drag queens reading books to children at libraries. The movement explains itself on its website — “Our agenda is simple: We believe that people of all ages should be free to express themselves however they want, free from the constraints of prescribed gender roles.”
One such event earlier this year at a library in Greenville, South Carolina, has led to library staff claiming they were pushed out, a $48,000 bill to pay for extra law enforcement officers at the event and even a state legislative committee rejecting a proposal to cut state funding for libraries that host drag queen story time, according to the Greenville News.
Igarashi-Ball said he has been reading to children of all ages at the Ponce branch usually once every two months since September 2017 and said the events remain popular. He said his drag persona is suited to working with children in libraries. “I would describe her as a modern Southern belle … (with) big hair, and I feel like she’s an aged-out pageant queen,” he said. Think Delta Burke’s depiction of Suzanne Sugarbaker in the CBS show “Designing Women.”
Igarashi-Ball, who doesn’t perform in clubs, isn’t sure why his clean and humorous act wouldn’t work for the children of Alpharetta just as it has in Atlanta, especially when the branch invited him.
Igarashi-Ball said he has a right to know who is taking issue with him so he can properly defend himself. “By not being provided an answer, it feels like discrimination and it feels like people are afraid of the event, which feels like homophobia.”
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