An Ohio public library summer class for teenagers titled, "Drag 101" — to be led by a former Miss Gay Ohio America and local drag queen — has been canceled due to the "veiled threats" and "hostile" messages, ThisWeekNews reported.
What's the background?
"Curious about the art of drag and no idea where to start? Come learn the basics with former Miss Gay Ohio America and local queen, Selena T. West!" the original class description at the Orange Branch of the Delaware County District Library read. "We will learn about the application of makeup and creating characters, as well as the history of drag. All genders welcome! Teens only, please."
West's goal for the class — which would have taken place next Wednesday afternoon — was to show that "drag is for everyone" and give youths an outlet they may otherwise not have had, ThisWeekNews said.
"It's going to be open to everybody, and I want people to come be able to express themselves and learn about drag," West said, according to the outlet. "Drag is not scary; drag is not sexual. [Teens can] learn about what seem like trivial things like hair, nails, makeup, clothing. Those are the building blocks of a Drag 101 class I would teach."
Here's a video report about the class:
Drag 101 class for teens sparks controversy at Delaware County libraryyoutu.be
But library spokeswoman Nicole Fowles said "hundreds" of phone calls and emails came in regarding the class — a large portion from out of state — and were "interfering with our librarians' ability to do their daily jobs," the outlet said.
"A small number of [the phone calls and emails] were hostile," she added to ThisWeekNews. "A smaller number were veiled threats."
So library leaders met with Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin, who also shared his concerns, the outlet said, and that led to the class cancellation.
'It really does break our hearts'
Fowles said library leadership was upset about the cancellation. "It really does break our hearts," she told ThisWeekNews.
Library Director George Needham added that "our mission statement ensures that we will provide lifelong learning in a friendly environment. Threats of protests, hate and violence stand in direct conflict with that mission and we cannot sacrifice the safety of the public we serve," the outlet added.
The library issued a statement that said, in part, that other messages supported the "Drag 101" class taking place:
Our hearts overflowed with the stories people told us. Stories that said they wished a program like this had been offered when they were a teen living in Delaware County. Stories from parents and grandparents who said they were proud to live in a community with a library that supported them and their children. Stories from teens who would attend the program and are excited for the library's offerings of inclusive and diverse programming.
New location for class
West told ThisWeekNews that the "Drag 101" class will now take place at the same time — 2 to 3 p.m. June 5 — but instead at Secret Identity Comics in Delaware, Ohio.
"The owner of that shop approached me," West told the outlet. "He was one of the people who spoke at the [library] board meeting in favor of the program and was really for it for all the teens to get involved and learn about the building blocks of what drag is."
Here's a clip of West speaking at that board meeting, which took place last week:
Selena T. West speaks during the Delaware County District Library board meetingyoutu.be