School librarians from across Texas gathered last week in Fort Worth for an annual convention that featured a pair of men in drag and symposiums about teaching kids to become “anti-racists” and embrace other social justice ideologies.
The program for the Texas Library Association (TLA) 2022 four-day conference titled “Recover, Rebalance, Reconnect” featured a lineup that included adult entertainers Justin Johnson — dressed in full drag as “Alyssa Edwards” — and “Jenny Skyy," aka Joseph Hoselton.
The conference was held last Monday through Thursday.
Johnson, who rose to fame after appearing on the television series “RuPaul's Drag Race,” was the "After Hours Keynote" speaker last Monday, while Hoselton led “Drag Queen Storytime” to promote “literacy and community collaboration through dynamic storytelling and music."
Other featured speakers at the conference included author Ibram X. Kendi, best known for his book How To Be Anti-Racist. The event offered workshops on “Building Community Relationships for LGBTQIA+ Patrons” and “diversifying” library collections with themes of “identity, culture, diversity, bias, and social justice.”
Another workshop involving Mesquite Independent School District librarian Rochelle Menendez, titled “Socially Conscious Conversations in the Elementary Library,” sought to “explore the opportunities we can offer in our library to help students become anti-racists, allies, and fluent in the language and ideas of social justice.”
With more than 6,000 members from school and government libraries across Texas, TLA is a charitable nonprofit group promoting libraries in Texas. It was founded in 1902 and made up of librarians and library workers from taxpayer-funded libraries.
The controversial "Drag Queen Storytime” events have made their way around American libraries in recent years, with one event in Philadelphia featuring a performer calling himself “Annie Christ," a play on the term anti-Christ.
The trend has spread to the United Kingdom, where books about "feminist fairytales and gender fluid novels" are read to "young children."
Drag Queen Story Hour started in San Francisco, California, in 2015, where it was launched to provide "positive and unabashedly queer role models" for children. It has chapters in 40 states and other countries. Drag Queen Story Hour is even promoted by the United Nations.
Mary Elizabeth Castle with Texas Values, a nonprofit social conservative family watchdog group, says seeing the trend pop up at a librarian’s conference — even in a conservative stronghold like Texas — isn’t that shocking.
“It’s very disappointing to see drag queens perform at the Texas Librarians Association conference, however, it’s not surprising,” Castle told The Christian Post. “We have seen drag queens try to perform at local libraries, school libraries in Austin and in Houston.
“This has been going on a very long time.”
Like other parents, Castle questioned why the TLA would even book such guests.
“I’m just very disappointed that, at the annual conference for librarians who are in charge of the books that your kids can check out, they would have this type of adult entertainment at their conference,” she said.
The TLA conference also featured several events focused on what they described as "book bans" in response to parent protests in December over plans to offer the 1999 novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The novel by American author Stephen Chbosky contains graphic depictions of minors engaged in sexual activity, including an underage sexual assault.
Despite protests from parents, the McKinney Independent School District opted to keep the book on library shelves.
In March, the TLA launched Texans for the Right to Read, a grassroots coalition against efforts to ban certain books across the state. In that vein, TLA’s conference offered events such as “Fighting Challenges and Protecting the Right to Read” and “Let’s Play Banned Books Jeopardy & Charades.”
Reports from the conference claim that in 2021, there were over 700 challenges to library and school materials and nearly 1,600 books were challenged or removed.
Castle says new policy guidance put forth by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Texas Education Agency allows school boards to adopt books to be put into libraries and gives power to parents to bring book titles to the board for a vote on removal.
“I definitely encourage parents to look at that model policy on the Texas Education Agency website and plead their school board to adopt this policy that puts the power back in the parents and the school board to have control over what type of books are in the school libraries,” said Castle.
As reports emerged Tuesday of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating a potential overturn of the controversial 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, Castle warned of a coming “reckoning in our nation of a lot of harms and ills that a lot of these anti-family and anti-life policies are causing.”
“I have a lot of hope that Roe v. Wade will be overturned this summer, and with that, our society will begin to rethink the body, rethink sexuality, and actually turn to more helpful and wholesome ways of looking at human beings,” she said.