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After complaints, Apex planners cancel Drag Queen Story Hour event during Pride Month

The Town of Apex is getting backlash for canceling a Drag Queen Story Hour event, one of several activities planned for the upcoming Apex Pride Festival.

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APEX, N.C. — Event planners in Apex are getting backlash for canceling a Drag Queen Story Hour event, one of several activities planned for the upcoming Apex Pride Festival.

June is Pride Month, and events supporting and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community are planned across the state and around the country.

On Saturday, a week before the June 11 Apex Pride Festival, Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert shared the news that the festival's Drag Queen Story Hour program was canceled.

Gilbert said he received a "variety of feedback" about the event from Apex citizens, which he shared with the Apex Festival Commission. The Apex Festival Commission took the feedback into consideration and removed the drag queens from the program, Gilbert explained.

The mayor's Facebook post announcing that Drag Queen Story Hour had been canceled received hundreds of comments.

One parent wrote, "This was THE Pride event I was planning to attend with my toddler. Very disappointed in the event organizers who were swayed by hateful, misguided comments."

Another wrote, "So disappointed with this decision. This is the exact opposite of supporting and showing love to our LGBTQIA+ community. Shameful decision by all involved."

Others thanked the mayor for sharing the community's feedback with event planners and trying to represent all voices.

On Monday, Gilbert disabled the public's ability to comment on his Facebook post, writing, "I will not tolerate disrespectful comments attacking others and hate speech on this page."

He also wrote, "I will continue to love all members in our community ... I have very close family members of the LGBTQIA+ community who I love dearly. We will continue to make this a community that welcomes varying opinions."

People who wish to express their concerns about the event can email apexfestivalcommission@gmail.com.

Drag Queen Story Hour events have become popular in recent years and are held across the country.

Mary Elise Chenoweth, a mom and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, founded the Raleigh chapter in 2019. Drag Queen Story Hour is just what it sounds like – drag queens reading to children and telling them stories in libraries, businesses and other public spaces to inspire creativity and teach them it's okay to be different.

Drag Queen Story Hour events are attended by children from all kinds of families.

In 2020, Brittany Vann Hogin, an organizer with Raleigh's chapter, explained, "There are all different kinds of people of different races, different sexualities and different identities, and our goal is that these kids see themselves in someone else – whether it's a storybook character or one of our queens."

Hogin said the queens face constant struggles for being themselves, and working with them in the LGBTQIA+ community is humbling.

"There are kids in families or schools who have never seen someone like them before," she said. "That's really what the main goal is: To make sure the kids feel seen and make them aware it's okay to be different."

Hogin said protesters showed up for the first Drag Queen Story Hour in Raleigh. Thanks to a group of moms and other volunteers, adults were able to keep the protesters from the children by holding umbrellas up and forming a human barrier.

"That's the only thing we care about. We don't want the kids to be upset," Hogin said. "When you work in the LGBT community, there's going to be someone somewhere who is upset about it."

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