Ottawa drag queen story time disrupted by anti-LGBTQ protester
On the eve of Ottawa’s Pride celebrations, a man disrupted a drag queen story time event for children in the neighbourhood of Bells Corner with claims that all of the attendants would be “cast into a lake of fire.”
But the host of the event, drag queen Adrianna Exposee, as well as parents and organizers, did not take the homophobic taunts lying down.
Video taken of the incident at Westcliffe Community Center shows parents carrying their children out of the room as the tirade goes on. Several people try to ask the man to leave, pointing out that he is spreading hateful speech and using inappropriate language at an event for children. He responds with further vitriol, accusing parents of child abuse.
“Once it started, it didn’t stop,” Exposee told CTV News Ottawa. “I initially felt shocked, and then my body kind of went numb.”
But Exposee stepped in.
“If you have a problem with me, you can take it up with me, but do not bring it on these people,” Exposee can be heard saying in the video. “You have a problem with how I am dressed, but we are here to celebrate love, we are here to celebrate pride, we are here to celebrate inclusion.”
Drag queen story times are events where parents can bring their children to hear picture books read out-loud by drag queens. They are often held at local libraries and community centres.
On Sunday, there was an increased police presence at a Pride picnic event in Hintonburg Park -- after the incident seen on Saturday at the drag queen story time event, organizers requested police to provide more security.
But it did not stop the community from coming out to celebrate and stand in solidarity.
“Those sorts of incidents have no place in our community in Ottawa and the 2SLGBTQ Community,” said Toby Whitfield, the festival’s director. “Certainly, we’re responding and reminding people that this is a festival for everyone.”
Sgt. François D'Aoust told CTV News Ottawa that officers were there “to ensure that there’s no hate speech and that we keep the peace in the area.”
The crowd in the park also contained city councillors and MPP Lisa MacLeod, showing support and condemning the anti-LGBTQ protestor at Westcliffe.
“I will work with the business improvement area, our local city councillor Rick Chiarelli and anybody else who wants to make sure we can put that event back on bigger and better,” MacLeod said. “This week or next week just to show that love is love.”
Some say their concerns about events such as drag queen story time stem from the worry that their children are too young for this kind of exposure.
“I think the citizens of Canada should be concerned about what our children are learning,” said Rick Boswick, who was there on Saturday in support of the man who was disrupting the event.
But others support the underlying message of inclusion. Dave Weatherall brought his son out to the Sunday picnic after hearing about what happened on Saturday.
“I want him to grow up in a world where he feels comfortable to be whoever he is,” he said.
Only hours before the disruption at the drag queen reading event, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson had come out as gay man, after being in the closet for nearly 40 years.
The basis of the man’s attacks on Exposee and the parents at the event stemmed from a religious point of view, but the idea that Christianity does not accept LGBTQ people is a view that Christian members of the LGBTQ community, as well as Christian allies, have spent years working to disrupt.
There have been setbacks, however. The Anglican Church last month rejected a push to sanction same-sex marriage within the church.
Exposee was proud of how the incident was handled, even if there were doubts about how to properly diffuse the situation at the time.
“Things like that stick with you, so they definitely make you stronger,” Exposee said. “They make you realize that what you do is important and that people can relate to that and I think it actually happened at the perfect time, right before Pride, because that's where we’re protesting.”