“Bigotry has got to go,” local electeds say
By Jessica Meditz
In response to a rise in hate against the local LGBTQ+ community, Jackson Heights elected officials held a community rally outside the Queens Public Library in the neighborhood.
Councilman Shekar Krishnan, Assemblywomen Catalina Cruz and Jessica González-Rojas and State Senator Jessica Ramos invited the community to stand in solidarity against anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-drag hate, in support of the Drag Story Hour NYC event that took place inside the library immediately after.
The rally, however, prompted some unwanted guests to take to the streets as well, expressing their disapproval of drag queens hosting storytime events for children.
“When we are met with hate, when we are met with depression, bigotry, homophobia, we respond with love. We respond with power, we respond together and send a message loud and clear that hate has no place here in Jackson Heights,” Krishnan said.
“Jackson Heights is the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ movement here in Queens in response to a hate crime when Julio Rivera was killed about 30 years ago, just a few blocks from here, and so we know what it means to respond to hate,” he continued. “In our community, we are proud to love and embrace everyone for who they are. We make sure our children grow up in a community where they can love whoever they want, where they can dress however they want and where we celebrate each and every single person here.”
While Krishnan led the crowd through a series of chants, including phrases such as, “The people united will never be defeated” and “Bigotry has got to go,” a male counter protester approached the podium.
He continued to shout, “Stop grooming the kids” before being confronted by Ramos, and eventually removed by security.
Ramos emphasized the importance of events like Drag Story Hour, so that children who are LGBTQ+ can feel safe and represented in the community, as well as encouraging people to talk about sex in an accurate and scientific way.
“I know it’s funny and I know it’s taboo, but I think a few people across the street missed the memo. I just want to say to everybody across the street, there is still time to come out,” she said while addressing the counter protesters. “There is an entire neighborhood ready to love you.”
Oliver Click, executive director of Drag Story Hour NYC and working drag performer, said that the No. 1 response they hear to Drag Story Hour is how so many people wish they had this opportunity growing up, and stressed how LGBTQ+ representation in a positive light significantly improves the mental health outcomes for that community.
“The rise in violent harassment and backlash that we’ve seen over the last few months has been shocking and heartbreaking,” they said. “But the support of our community including parents, teachers, librarians, city officials, local community organizers… has enabled us to not only continue our programming as usual, but to expand our outreach and celebrate creativity, empathy and joyful expression to the people that need it most.
Upon approaching the counter protestors for comment, the group was uncooperative.
A Jackson Heights resident and an employee at an elementary school, Jennifer A. (who requested her full last name be omitted), was in tears at the backlash the event received from the counter protesters.
In fact, on the same day as the rally, she said that one of her young students requested to be called a different name and asked if they could stand in line with the opposite gender during school.
Jennifer said she would welcome a drag queen into her classroom any day with open arms.
“That’s what we’re taught to do, to teach them acceptance, and it’s very upsetting to hear all of this because it takes a lot of courage for a child to know themselves, and I credit their parents for that,” she said.