A drag queen who used to live in Charlotte and still performs here said he has received death threats on Facebook after appearing on a local TV station over his request for a Drag Queen Storytime at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Reading to children while he’s dressed in drag promotes diversity, Brandon James told the Observer on Wednesday. “We are all different but normal,” he said. That’s what he hopes children will understand – and that as they grow older, they will be less likely to bully someone different than they are, he said.
Dressed in drag, he will read any book the library gives him to read to children, he said.
James, who dresses as Princess Onya, said news of his request went viral the morning after he appeared on WCNC. Keep NC Safe and the NC Values Coalition flooded the internet with what he said was hate speech toward him.
“We say no @cmlibrary keep it out of the Queen City,” NC Values Coalition tweeted. “Storytime with a Drag Queen is not helping kids, it’s disturbing.”
“I am appalled,” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour posted on Keep NC Safe’s Facebook page in reaction to James’ request.
Similar Drag Queen Storytime events have been held in Atlanta, New York and Indiana, he said. The New York Times reported that the concept is thought to have begun in San Francisco in 2015.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library replied to James in an email on Monday, “letting him know that we can’t invite him to lead a storytime at this time, because those are led by library staff,” said Cordelia Anderson, the library’s director of marketing, communications and advocacy. “We have a very specific way that storytimes are delivered, following best practices in the library industry, and these are typically delivered by trained staff, following those practices.”
When James first inquired about having a Drag Queen Storytime, the library referred him to the “suggest a program” form on its website, as it does everyone with a program idea, Anderson said.
The library offers programs other than storytimes, Anderson said, and let James know that if he would like to be a presenter at a future program, he could apply to be part of the library’s next Presenter Showcase, in January 2018.
“The Presenter Showcase is an annual event where presenters meet and provide an overview of their program to Library staff,” Anderson said in an email reply to the Observer. “Presenters discuss their program offering in detail, provide handouts, and meet staff. It is then up to the Library staff to schedule the program with the presenter, following the Library’s programming guidelines and budget.”
James said he lived in Charlotte for five or six years before returning seven months ago to his native Pacolet in Spartanburg County, S.C. He visits the Queen City frequently, where he has lots of friends, he said. He is scheduled to perform this weekend in Charlotte.
He plans to release his first book this fall, a children’s novel titled “Auntie Bulli,” and hopes to teach kids to be more accepting with its message.
On Facebook, James posted that he’s received hundreds of messages “condemning me to hell and calling me mentally ill, a freak and anything else you can think of. I’ve also received 100’s of messages supporting me and praising me and calling me a hero and a role model for LGBT youth.
“Those are the only messages I care about!” he posted. “That is the reason I am doing this! to build a better future! a caring and kind future! kids are our only chance for a better future!” He ended his post: “I’m not giving up!”