Planning a Secure Drag Story Time Event

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In the current climate, drag story time events are powerful statements of inclusion. They also entail risk of online harassment, confrontational protests, and even bomb threats. Here are some things to consider when planning a drag story event in your store.

Don’t go it alone…

  1. Contact [email protected] as early in the planning process as possible. We can offer some guidelines and best practices to keep you and your community safer, which will be most effective earlier in the planning process.

  2. Consider working with Drag Story Hour. They are a 501(c)(3) children’s literacy nonprofit with chapters all over the world and years of experience planning safe and fun events. Their site also has resources and FAQs to help.

  3. Talk to staff about any safety concerns ahead of time. Make sure you have enough staff who will be comfortable working the event if there are protests, and work with them to establish what the best way forward is.

  4. Make sure you and your staff know about Binc. They offer monetary and mental health support to booksellers. Nobody should go through threats or intimidation without support, and this is a resource for those who may not be able to access mental health services otherwise.

Spread the word mindfully…

  1. Don’t overbook the event. Consider what level of publicity is right for your community and a store of your size. Smaller events are easier to secure and don’t require you to use high-visibility means of promotion.

  2. Publicize your event anticipating pushback. Here are some tips:

    1. Is social media the right move? You probably publicize most of your events on social media, but consider limiting your publicity to channels less likely to lead to harassment. Possible alternatives: your store’s newsletter, fliers in your store and friendly neighboring stores, and the store’s online events calendar. 

    2. Instagram > Facebook. In our experience, Facebook groups, including some private groups less subject to moderation, have been a main vector for the spread of hateful misinformation and anti-diversity organizing against bookstores. 

    3. Limit a post’s comments. For the same reasons, you may want to limit who can comment on your posts. On Facebook you can set comments to only those who have followed you for more than 24 hours — or turn comments off entirely for Instagram — using the three dots in the top right corner of the post. This can help deter swarming.

    4. Don’t announce it too far in advance on social media. Yes, this could limit the reach of the event, but it will also limit the ability of harassers to organize. Strike whatever balance is right for your store and community.

  3. Incorporate drag story time as part of an existing children’s reading series. This can be a way to make your story time events more inclusive without drawing undue attention. For the safety and comfort of the performers, it should still be indicated ahead of time to attendees that it is a drag story time event.


In case of protests… 

  1. Be conscious of who you put on the front lines. In the face of anti-diversity protests, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ staff may be targeted for harassment or violence. Additionally, dealing with online harassment takes a particular toll on the communities most impacted. Keep this in mind when assigning roles.

  2. Involve police with care. Many in your store and community, including staff and performers, may not be comfortable with police involvement, and in turn, assigned police officers may not be the supportive presence you need. But notifying them ahead of time can be important to prepare for the possibility of threats, crowd control, and documentation. You can also request a legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild to monitor police presence at an event.

  3. Familiarize yourself with permitting processes in your area. If a protest is planned, you may be able to get advance notice by seeing if anyone has applied for a permit in your area (often a matter of public record). This will help you know their rights, your rights, and the boundaries of who can be where when. It can also help you plan accordingly or request your own permit as a buffer between protesters and your store.

  4. Rally allies with de-escalation in mind. Crowds of supporters are not the right allies if they make an event less safe or seek confrontation. Be mindful of this in who you call for support. Additionally, consider training staff in de-escalation techniques and positioning those willing and temperamentally suited to de-escalate in the case of rising tensions.

  5. Shield kids from hateful signage. Anti-LGBTQ+ agitators like to carry signs full of slurs and lies, all while claiming to “protect kids.” To actually protect kids, some like the Parasol Patrol use rainbow umbrellas to block sight lines. 


In case of threats…

  1. Bomb threats must be taken seriously in the current climate. Document all threats extensively and report them to authorities. The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has resources and suggestions to help you deal with bomb threats. Check out their video trainings and a printable checklist to keep on hand in case of a bomb threat. For more resources and guidelines, check out ABA’s resource guide for preparedness, “This Is a Fire Drill”.

  2. Prioritize safety of your store, your staff, your customers, the performers, and the community. Specific threats need to be taken seriously, and actions that will escalate a conflict must be avoided. If you need to cancel an event and try again another time, that is OK. 

  3. The FBI Hate Crimes Unit may have jurisdiction to investigate, depending on the specific threats involved, and they may be more supportive than local law enforcement in some instances. Details for reporting a hate crime can be found here. 


For long-term security…

  1. Build relationships in your community and organize. This will help you publicize your event in less volatile ways, but it will also build your network of supporters and raise awareness about who you are and why you believe drag story time events are important — namely, to give kids positive queer role models and promote inclusion and acceptance. It is harder to believe misinformation about someone you know personally.