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UPDATE: Majority of speakers at council meeting support drag queen story time

UPDATE: The majority of speakers at tonight’s Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting who spoke about drag queen story time have been in support of the event catering to children at the Lafayette Public Library. One speaker was in opposition to the event along with nine callers. “Dozens” called in, supporting drag queen story time.

Jean Menard said she had come to talk about the city’s Confederate monument, but also noted her comments also apply to the story time controversy.

“This situation with the library isn’t that different. People are still in a place where people are in denial about facts and truth,” she said. “Judging other people, hating other people for how they look and how they dress, it boggles my mind that we’re still doing that in 2018. It’s completely unacceptable. We need to teach our children to love each other, accept each other.

“Let’s move forward. Let’s include everyone. Regardless of color, regardless of how they identify, regardless of how they dress. We’re all people, we all want to be loved for who we are. Let’s be the city that says we are going to be one to move forward.”

Other speakers included professors from UL Lafayette, along with old and young residents gave statements in support of the event

Acadiana Pride also has issued a statement on the Drag Queen Story Time controversy.

“We support acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity, which is the message the fraternity sponsoring the reading event to children is trying to promote. We also support that parents should be free to allow their children to attend this event, or choose not to, as they see fit,” a statement from President Tye Jon Hebert reads.

At 6 p.m, comments began at the council meeting. People packed into the City-Parish Council meeting room. Council staff say there are almost 40 people signed up to speak.

The council meets tonight, and although there’s nothing on the agenda about Drag Queen Story Time at the Lafayette Library, supporters of the program and opponents both have said they planned to be out in force tonight for the public comment section of the meeting.

The following is a statement from Leadership of Louisiana Trans Advocates on the Drag Queen Story Time:

“Libraries have a long-standing history of fostering learning. Learning broadens our horizons, shapes our understanding of the world, and allows us to evolve. You wouldn’t move through the world as you do without being taught how to navigate through it.

Drag Story Time coming to the Lafayette Public Library is an opportunity to learn above nothing else. In the spirit of learning, this is an excellent time to get a brief overview of what exactly drag is: a performance. Just like you might hire someone to be Elsa for a day, a drag performer will often wear beautiful and elaborate costumes and adopt the persona of a character. When the performer goes home, the costume comes off and they go on living their lives normally. A performer is not necessarily a transgender person, the majority of time they are cisgender men. Even if they are, how they present in drag at a show is just for that: the show.

This is what it looks like to prevent bullying and exclusion: show your school age children that queer and trans people are not subhuman, they aren’t exoctic, and they aren’t wrong for existing as they are. This is what it looks like to lower the suicide rate of queer kids: showing them that it’s okay to be who they are. LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. LGBTQIA+ kids who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide than those who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

Delta Lambda Phi is giving parents of Lafayette the opportunity to foster conversations on what it means to be different and how to accept folks that are different from us. It is shameful that Lafayette citizens and city officials would condemn an opportunity to bridge the gaps in their own community. Louisiana officials are far behind the times: maybe they should read a book or two.”

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Mayor-President Joel Robideaux is urging the board that oversees the library to re-think its approval of Drag Queen Story time, but at least one member has said he won’t.

Here’s a Facebook post from board member Jolan Jolivette:


Mayor-President Joel Robideaux’s CREATE initiative has no comment on the story time controversy.

A spokeswoman for CREATE, which is a tax-funded operation self-described as “collaborative initiative that strengthens and supports the authentic cultural, recreation, entertainment, arts and tourism assets that make up our cultural economy in Lafayette Parish,” told us she would have no comment on the controversy when we called, and hung up.

The CREATE website states, in part:

“Our local culture is a tremendous natural resource. It has helped diversify our economic platform and is poised for exploration. Our citizens provide a deeply-rooted, diverse, genuine, thriving, vibrant and immersive experience for visitors and residents alike. CREATE offers an opportunity to give attention to infrastructure and investments to build a community that reflects our culture.”

Earlier today, Robideaux released an announcement that he planned to do what he could to get a Drag Queen Story Time at the library cancelled.

As we reported this morning, the Lafayette Public Library responded.

Here’s the post, from the Library’s website:

“The Lafayette Public Library hosts an average of 60 story times per month throughout the parish. Special guests at the story time are not a new concept to the program.

Our story times are designed by our children’s librarians who select the books that will be read to families and work with the guest storyteller to practice the flow of the program. All story programs for this age group are designed for families to attend together and involve books, songs and craft activities that encourage interaction among the children.

The picture books that are read are content and age appropriate. The Drag Queen Story Time will share stories of individuality, openness and acceptance with families seeking an opportunity to show their children that every person is unique and should be treated with equal respect.”

Earlier today, Mayor-President Joel Robideaux issued a statement, saying he will be trying to cancel the Drag Queen Story Time planned at the Lafayette Public Library in October.

Robideaux, who refers to Lafayette as “a progressive town” in many of his presentations and speeches, also refers to the library making sure it continues to get the “support” from the community that the library has “historically received.”

In April, Lafayette voters rejected the renewal of a property tax that raised money to fund operations of the library.

These events are being held across the country, including in cities like New York, Boston and Houston.

Here’s the statement:

Currently, events of the Lafayette Public Library are neither authorized nor approved by Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG), including the Drag Queen Story Time event scheduled for October 6, 2018 at the Library Main Branch.

In response to public requests, LCG is working to determine how this event was approved as a programmed event of the Library, who has authority to cancel or move it, and the process for doing so.

The Library has an Executive Director that is appointed by and answers to the Library’s Board of Control. As Mayor-President, I have one appointment to the Library’s Board of Control and the Lafayette City-Parish Council has the remaining seven appointments. I will be discussing cancellation of the event or privately-owned location alternatives with my appointment and encourage the Council to do the same. I will also be asking the Library’s Board of Control to conduct a thorough review of its programming and approval process for taxpayer funded events.

Our parish libraries are public spaces, with venues that any group or individual can reserve, on a non-discriminatory basis, as required by law. We have to be certain, however, that our internally approved programming is both appropriate and serves the needs of Lafayette Parish. That is the only way our library system will continue to enjoy the support from our community that it has historically received.

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