Watch: Drag Queen Story Hour at Museum Canceled Following 'Overwhelming' Hate, Death Threats

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday July 29, 2021

A private, after-hours Drag Story Hour that was scheduled to take place at a museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, was canceled following a deluge of threats — some of which on the lives of the organizers, reports local news outlet the Lincoln Journal Star.

According to the article, the event, which was scheduled to run for two hours on July 31 and had a guest list of 50 attendees, "was private and to be held after the museum closed."

Even so, the outlet noted that "the nasty messages started to roll in," including those citing organizer Waylon Werner-Bassen, "followed by threatening ones — even death threats — which prompted the Lincoln Children's Museum and Drag Queen Story Hour Nebraska to cancel the event after discussing safety concerns with the Lincoln Police Department."

The hatred didn't just target the event, though. The museum itself, as well as LGBTQ equality advocacy group OutNebraska, which is associated with Nebraska's chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour, also "received an overwhelming number of threats of violence," including death threats, as per an Instagram post shared by the museum, according to local news outlet KLKN.

The museum's executive director, Tara Knuth, told the Journal Star, "We work to foster environments within our physical space in which all families feel they can participate fully." The event, she said, was canceled due to concerns for the safety of museum visitors.

Local blogger Gretchen Garrison said that death threats were unwarranted, but spoke against the event, telling KLKN that although the story hour was private, the fact it was happening was publicized via social media and it was open to anyone who wanted to attend. "They wanted to do the private event and wanted the whole community to come," Garrison said.

The blogger also characterized the story hour as "a grown man dressed up in a provocative dress reading a book," and decried what she called "a group agenda that's pushing something towards children and towards families."

Werner-Bassen had a different perspective, the Journal Star reported. "The event on Saturday was to celebrate LGBTQ families and give them a place to read books that reflect their stories, which might not be available in libraries or schools," the article said.

The city's mayor, Leirion Gaylor Baird, condemned the threats, denouncing that it was "never acceptable" to play "politics with people's lives."

Baird went on to assure the community: "All threats are being investigated by the Lincoln Police Department, and, to our LGBTQ friends and neighbors, know you are loved and welcome in our city."

Drag story hours have a national presence and have been featured at libraries and other public spaces for years, but have become targets. Last month, a library in Derry, New Hampshire, relocated one such event following complaints. And in a more extreme case, police removed an armed intruder from a drag story hour in Houston in 2019.

In a similar display of anti-LGBTQ animus, a transgender magician who had been scheduled to perform several shows at a public library in Gillette, Wyoming, canceled those appearances earlier this month after receiving death threats.

To watch the KLKN news clip, follow this link.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.