DRAG QUEEN DRAMA: Threats cancel DGPL event

STANDING+TOGETHER%3A+Supporters+of+the+librarys+drag+event+attend+the+Wednesday+night+village+meeting+fully+outfitted+in+We+Support+our+Library+t-shirt.

STANDING TOGETHER: Supporters of the library’s drag event attend the Wednesday night village meeting fully outfitted in “We Support our Library” t-shirt.

Maggie Fleming and Sarah Woods

The Downers Grove Public Library staff announced the cancellation of Drag Queen Bingo Sept. 12 due to threats made against the library. The event was scheduled to celebrate national coming out day with Oct. 11, open to grades 7-12.

Initially, the DGPL and the Library Director, Julie Milavec, wanted to make a safe and comfortable environment for youth and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Participating teens would play a few rounds of traditional bingo and later watch drag queen Aurora Divine perform to the Katy Perry song “Rainbow.”

“This event was meant to be a celebration of self-expression and self-identity. We want everyone to see themselves in the library and to see people who are different being accepted and celebrated,” Milavec said. 

Some community members criticized the DGPL, saying a drag performance was not appropriate for a teen audience in a public library setting.

“Drag shows are and have always been adult only and it has no place in our school system, regardless if they claimed it was going to be a G-rated show after Bingo,” an anonymous DGN parent said to the Omega. 

The library originally wanted to continue with the event despite these calls to cancel. DGPL published a comprehensive statement regarding the controversy on their website August 29. Staff addressed and refuted these claims against the event in the 5-page document. 

“Aurora’s performance will be age appropriate and has been discussed at length with our librarians who are specially trained and educated to work with teens,” DGPL said. 

Aurora Divine addressed her online content separate from the DGPL in an interview.

“My online presence is in no way inappropriate for teens. If parents feel that my online presence is inappropriate for teens then the parents should be looking into other, way more inappropriate media that their children are looking at,” Divine said.

However, the accusations eventually turned into threats. September 12 the DGPL released a second statement saying that the event was canceled to ensure safety for the community.

“The difficult decision has been made to cancel the upcoming Drag Queen Bingo program due to threats made against the DGPL. These threats are currently under active investigation by law enforcement,” library administration said. 

Although the event was controversial, various Downers Grove community members have shown support towards the library’s effort to be inclusive. Small business owner Dana Mitchell started a grassroots effort at her shop, Adorn512 to promote the library’s cause. 

“Since there was so much hate and bigotry going around, we wanted to tell everybody of our support by selling t-shirts. We had someone design t-shirts that said, ‘we love our DG library,’ in rainbow colors,” Mitchell said. 

According to Mitchell, many other members of the community have also backed the DGPL and their decision to host the bingo based on the attention her shop has received as of recently.

“[In] less than 24 hours we were sold out of the shirts. There is such a high demand for them that we are ordering another shipment of shirts. Especially with the cancellation of drag queen bingo, it’s [now] more than ever that people want to support the library,” Mitchell said. 

During a Wednesday night library board of trustees meeting, supporters of the library attended full outfitted in Mitchell’s design. Various parents and community members from both sides of the controversy spoke at the event. Those in attendance brought up everything from the importance of diversity in the library to grooming accusations. 

Visible emotions were displayed by both sides. Some speakers expressed tearful thank you’s to the board members while others urged them to keep their children safe by “keeping adult concepts out of the library.