Drag Queen Story Time at Barnes and Noble
“Who says pink is for girls? Pink is just pink,” Tatiana Rexia said as she read aloud from the rhyming picture book “Harrison Dwight, Ballerina and Knight.”
Fellow drag queen Sugar Woodward nodded and asked a question to the kids sitting cross-legged in front of them.
“Does anyone else like the color pink?”
A dozen kids raised their hands.
Drag Queen Story Time, hosted by Rexia and Woodward, was a “celebration of diversity, dress-up, and fun” at the Columbia Center Mall Barnes & Noble on Saturday. The hourlong program brought drag queens together with well over 150 kids, parents and supporters of all ages, where the queens read children’s books to the crowd of spectators.
This is not the only event of its type. Drag Queen Story Hour has been gaining popularity at bookstores and libraries across the country.
The Kennewick bookstore surprised the two local performers when they invited them to host, but the queens were excited and eager to accept.
Rexia said the response she got from children and parents at the store was extremely positive. Though the event was expected to draw protesters — and did last weekend — none showed up Saturday. Nevertheless, police and security were present.
“A lot of people like to put queer people and queer artists in a box that says ‘sexual and not allowed outside of a nightclub,’” Rexia said. “And that’s not fair, because our art is a lot more deep than that.”
There are all kinds of drag, Rexia said, just like there are all kinds of art. She said that can include it being something appropriate for children.
“You just explain that drag is a gender expression art form; they are just having fun with makeup and being who they are. That’s all it really is, honestly.”
Kelley Lonigan brought her child to Drag Queen Story Time after seeing the event posting on Facebook. Before coming, she explained to her 4-year-old daughter, Harper, what a drag queen is. Harper wanted to dress up too, and came as her favorite TV character.
But Lonigan also prepared her daughter for protesters.
“I was prepared for people to say something terrible, I guess,” Lonigan said. “People are really mean, so if someone starts yelling, just ignore what they’re saying.”
Rexia has done drag for 10 years and recently came out as a transgender woman last September. She says the books she and Woodward read were inclusive and pride-themed.
“Basically, just giving the kids stories that — if you have a kid in the crowd who feels a little different — they feel better now,” Rexia said. “A lot of times when there’s kids like me when I was a child, I felt not included in anything.”
Now, Rexia wants to be the person she needed when she was younger. She says that if she could have seen Drag Queen Story Time as a kid, she probably would have accepted herself much sooner.
“I probably would have come out as trans way sooner if I could have seen someone that I can see as a superhero,” she said.
“To kids, we can be superheroes.”
Rexia hosts a drag show every Wednesday at Out and About.
The Columbia Center Barnes & Noble has Story Time every Saturday at 11.