A planned private family event at the children's museum in Nebraska was called off due to death threats. OutNebraska, an LGBTQ organization, was supposed to run a Drag Queen Story Hour at the Lincoln Children's Museum, but they decided to shut down the event after receiving an "overwhelming number" of threats of violence.
After consulting with the local police, the museum publicly announced the cancellation. In a statement, the museum operators said that while they were looking forward to supporting OutNebraska's advocacy for inclusivity and welcome LGBTQ families, the safety of the staff and the visitors had to be the priority. Some 50 people were expected at the weekend event.
Abbi Swatsworth, the executive director of OutNebraska, said that they have been running story hour for four years and have drawn negative reactions in the past. However, the level of threats this year was unexpected, which they received through Facebook and other online platforms, as well as their voicemails. The group booked the children's museum months ahead of the event, which was limited to the invitees.
Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said that the "inflammatory posts" aimed at a private gathering are under investigation. Police officer Luke Bonkiewicz confirmed the legitimacy of some of the threats they've reviewed, and while they did not advise the museum to cancel the event, there were concerns for the children, so it was better to be safe than sorry.
What is Drag Queen Story Hour?
The family event is a storytelling activity that explains gender fluidity to young kids. According to OutNebraska, drag queens feature in the program so that children may have "glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models."
Drag Queen Story Hour runs nationally across other libraries and schools in the U.S. It was created in 2015 by Micheal Tea as an educational and fun activity for young people who are not bounded by gender restrictions. It serves to inspire young people to love reading and embrace diversity and appreciation for other people, regardless of their status, orientation or race.
OutNebraska said that they do background checks on the participating drag queens to appropriate personalities for a young audience. With the challenges of COVID-19, OutNebraska also came prepared and planned a COVID-safe story hour. Despite the upsetting decision, the group is already planning to reschedule the event.
Support for LGBTQ
After the museum announced the cancellation, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Nebraska said that this incident had been another painful reminder of the discrimination against LGBTQIA Nebraskans. Danielle Conrad said that although many local politicians support equality, hate still crops up among some Nebraskans.
Conrad said this is also a reminder for people to be empowered to "make a positive difference" during difficult circumstances. The ACLU director noted that it's not enough to take this incident to heart as people are not powerless to change.
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