A zoo in Billings, Montana is committed to presenting a "Drag Queen Story Hour" on June 22 despite backlash, saying they're going to "move forward with this harmless and fun reading event that is held throughout the country."
According to KTVQ, ZooMontana is set to hold a "Drag Queen Story Hour" on June 22 in honor of Pride Month. The event, which is being met with backlash from the local community, is being held in collaboration with 406 Pride.
406 Pride is a local "LGBTQ+ resource center" and its president, Walt Donges, said of ZooMontana's decision to continue moving forward with the event despite backlash, "There are few times in my life that I can say I'm actually impressed, but I am impressed. I am pleased that it’s not just me standing up, it’s the zoo standing up for what’s right."
Reports of what's seen at Drag Queen Story Hours have reflected behavior ranging from adult males flashing their genitals to events hosted by convicted child sex offenders.
"In this conservative community," Donges said, "people think that their way of thinking is the right way all the time and there’s not a lot of room for people that think differently or progressively. Yeah, we know what we’re up against. We’re up against a bully."
Donges did admit "this is not for all kids, perhaps. But those in our community that are at risk, we need them to be able to feel at one with their gender identity. And this is all that is, gender identity,"
A Facebook post from ZooMontana Director Jeff Ewelt stated, "Let me be clear - ZooMontana prides itself in being inclusive of all living beings. 406 Pride is a respected and valued community asset, one we are proud to support and host at ZooMontana."
"While personal threats and threats of no longer supporting the Zoo are concerning, we will not let unwarranted fear and hate deter our decision to move forward with this harmless and fun reading event that is held throughout the country," the statement continued. "At the end of the day, if your personal agenda does not fit this event, we simply ask that you do not come to the Zoo that day. It would be a shame to never allow your children back to the Zoo because of one simple event. Happy Pride month."
Jenna McKinney from the Montana-based organization Family Rights Alliance has condemned the event, saying, "Why are we putting such a contentious issue right in the heart of that area?" and "to put something like this in the heart of a place that's for small children is just wrong," KTVQ reported.
In 2020, a drag queen described the intent of these "harmless" and "fun" events as an attempt to "normalize deviant adult behavior in children’s minds and override their own instincts."