A Republican celebrated after a library canceled its inclusive event for kids, but hate didn’t win

A Republican celebrated after a library canceled its inclusive event for kids, but hate didn’t win

As Daily Kos has covered many times, there are few things mobilizing conservatives during the pandemic like children’s events at libraries. Yes, it’s true—we’re still surviving a global pandemic, and all the while, folks are more than happy to make sure that queer folks aren’t able to do children’s programming—much less have queer books available—at local libraries. Drag Queen story hour? Nope. Trans magician? Not a chance, apparently. We’ve seen reports of people filing criminal reports over children’s books.

This November, a public library in Denton, Texas, canceled a book event for kids after a Republican lashed out over the alleged “transgender storytime,” as reported by the Denton Record-Chronicle. Libraries report facing threats all because Republican Don Huffines, who is running for governor of the state, believed the books in question would be about trans kids.

The event is called Rainbow StoryTime, which includes books about people with marginalized identities. The books promote self-acceptance, making friends, and respect—all great topics for youth, obviously. The “rainbow” in the title is a reference to people coming together in general, not the LGBTQ+ Pride flag. So how and why did Huffines catch wind of this, and why did it cause such outcry? Let’s check out the details below—and how community members revived the event, in the end.

The library event was originally scheduled to include several books, none of which involve openly LGBTQ+ characters. However, the event was scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 20, which is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The library says someone accidentally included the word “transgender” on an event flyer, as they were confused about whether the event included specific recognition for trans folks. Not a big deal.

Huffines, however, took it as an opportunity to lose his mind.

“I am calling on the City of Denton to cancel ‘transgender storytime’ and fire the library employees who approved the event,” Huffines said on his website. He, of course, referred to a potential “transgender storytime” as a space where “public employees” would take the “innocence” of children and replace it with “Leftist sexual indoctrination.”

So, after violent threats against library staff came in over the phone, they canceled the event over safety concerns for both staff and children. In true Grinch style, Huffines celebrated his involvement in the cancellation of the event on his official website. But parents in the area caught wind of the situation and decided to host the event at a different location. The icing on the cake? They switched out the books to include Julian Is A Mermaid and Calvin, both children’s books about trans people. 

How did this happen? The mother of an openly transgender child worked with her church Armadillo Ale Works owner to host the event at the brewery instead. Denton city councilperson Brian Beck even came to the event and read the first book. 

“I want trans kids to know they’re perfect as they are,” Amber Briggle, the mom who put together the new event, told the Record-Chronicle. “And that they’re worth fighting for.”

“Have you seen one of these events? I would ask them that question,” Beck told the outlet in reference to people who protested outside of the event. “I think if you will go and watch professional librarians … your fears will be calmed.”

That really does sum it up—these are books about people that children can enjoy. Transphobes paint these events in hysterical, outrageous terms, but we’re talking about books. Books that have the power to change lives, yes, but change them for the better. Who isn’t a better person thanks to learning about someone else’s life, perspective, or identity? Who isn’t a better person after having the resources to learn a little more about themselves, too? 

In speaking to local outlet WFAA, Jennifer Bekker, who serves as the director of libraries for Denton, said the library’s focus is to serve its community, which is “vibrant and diverse.” Bekker said the library has been hosting events that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community for years, and while not everyone has been happy about it, it’s overall been a very positive experience.

“I think the difference this time is there was a loud social media call from outside groups,” Bekker told the outlet, adding that the library received threatening messages and phone calls from people as far away as Georgia, Oklahoma, and California. 

Republicans will do whatever they can to demonize vulnerable folks, but thankfully, people who actually live in these communities are fighting back. 

You can check out a brief video interview with Bekker below.

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