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This Drag Queen and Teacher Passionately Defends Drag Story Hour

Author: Christopher Wiggins

Conservatives, right-wing extremists, neo-Nazis, and Republican lawmakers continue to demonize drag queens across the country, but one of these creative performers is standing up and wants everyone to know the real story of drag.

And for drag story times, picture a kid in Colorado being whisked away on an adventure through words read by a nearly 7-foot-tall character dressed up in a bright pink foam wig that looks straight out of a cartoon as well as hearing that person — a professional educator and talented and trained storyteller — act out a picture book story that you can read along with.

That’s the experience Shirley Delta Blow, a Denver-area drag queen, hopes to give all the children attending one of her popular drag queen story hour events. This drag queen, who also hosts bingo and brunch, says detractors should understand why drag queen story hours are essential and not confusing to kids. She also explains why adult men in drag decide to devote time and energy to the program.

At 6-foot-3, plus heels and an outrageous foam wig, Blow, 55, tells The Advocate that she easily towers over a crowd.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Sanks/Shirley Delta Blow

She’s been performing drag since 2011, after participating in a “campy fundraising pageant” called the Miss Queen of Aces, Blow explains. It was part of a benefit for the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association.

“It was a great way to have fun and get a bunch of volleyball players together to dress in drag and have a good time to raise money for the organization,” she says. “And well, because I have a theater background — I majored in theater and film at the University of Kansas — I told myself that I’m going to take this seriously.”

That experience led to other opportunities to put on makeup and an outfit to perform for audiences who appreciated the work she put into her character and various acts.

Blow says the anti-drag sentiment across the nation is painful and disappointing. She says that rumblings started a few years ago but have gotten almost out of control with protests at events requiring the aid of groups like the Parasol Patrol, which shield kids from seeing and hearing the vile things spewed by protesters, she says.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Sanks/Shirley Delta Blow

To answer the question of why grown men would want to read to kids in drag, the experienced educator says it’s simple.

“I love reading; I loved reading as a kid,” she says. “Reading inspired me and opened my eyes to the world. So why would you not want to share the joy of reading with kids who see a character from a book reading to them in real life?”

Blow explains that in 2017 a local bookstore asked for volunteers to participate in drag queen story time, which she thought was a great idea.

She says organizers asked how she, as an actor and drag queen, felt about reading picture books to children.

“And I was like, ‘Well, you obviously don’t know my whole story because I’m a third-grade teacher, and I literally do that every day of school, read stories to kids,’” Blow says.

The longtime educator (since 2006), who jokingly says she moved to teach “for the money” from a previous career as a professional actor, says that the event was exceptionally well attended.

She says that her constant exposure to kids’ books has allowed her to collect picture books with stories about acceptance, confidence, kindness, self-esteem, and compassion.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Sanks/Shirley Delta Blow

“So I’ve developed a kind of a catalog of books that I like to read at story time,” she says.

Blow says the argument that drag queens are trying to indoctrinate kids into something is silly, and she would invite anybody to come to one of her events to see what lessons kids learn.

“What I say is I’m not trying to make anybody queer,” she says. “I’m trying to make kids kind and develop empathy, exercise their compassion. And if, you know, along the way, students are discovering parts of their identity or discovering their creativity or exploring new places through books, then that’s wonderful.”

She says the notion that a drag queen in an over-the-top outfit while reading to children will somehow affect kids’ sexual orientation is absurd.

“I tested this theory a couple of times at my district’s board of education meeting and the second at this Colorado State Board of Education meeting,” she says.

“I just started out by saying, ‘Look, everyone says that, as a drag queen, if I read a book to you, it’s going to make everybody queer,’” she says. “’So we’re going to see. I’m going to read a book for you tonight, and let’s see how many people I make gay.’”

“Of course, nobody raised their hand when I said, ‘Oh, so how many of you did I make queer?’” she says.

“We understand that that’s not the way that it works because lots of queer people grew up in straight families with, you know, straight parents and straight siblings, going to church with all the role models who were straight and schools and sports teams and all of these things and read books, book upon book upon book with straight characters, and we still turned out to be queer. So it doesn’t work that way,” Blow shares.

She says as far as dressing up, kids have a great imagination and play dress-up games all the time. It is no more confusing for kids to see a drag queen read a story in a dress, makeup, and wig than seeing their neighbor in a witch costume or somebody in a vampire outfit on Halloween.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Sanks/Shirley Delta Blow

“We dress up to explore the things we want to be. And sometimes we dress up because we love the person we’re dressing up as,” Blow says. “Maybe they’re a role model to us. For example, I read a great book called Fred Gets Dressed by Peter Brown, and the boy in there gets dressed up like mom and dad.”

She adds, “I think as kids, we have this idea that I might want to put on the clothes of the people I love because I want to be like them.”

Speaking as himself, Stuart Sanks says that he hasn’t appeared in his professional capacity in school as his drag alter ego, nor would he.

“Stuart was hired to teach here, and that’s who’s going to do the work in my classroom,” he says.

But Sanks adds that being a drag performer is no secret and “my students are welcome to see Shirley out at a story event on the weekend, of course.”

Photo courtesy of Stuart Sanks/Shirley Delta Blow

The narrative that drag queens shouldn’t be reading to children because of sexy nightclub shows some do is also silly, Blow notes.

“I might liken drag to a dancer,” she says. “So as a dancer, maybe hired to do a ballet, let’s say the Nutcracker, a classical ballet that has been done for 150 years or so. It’s very family-friendly, even though you have some fighting scenes. But the dances the dancers perform are appropriate for the audience invited to the show.

“That dancer might also be hired to do a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas, such as Zumanity. That show is designed for an adult audience,” she says. “That same dancer, right, can do completely different shows based on the audience and the show they’ve been hired to do. Drag queens are no different.”

Blow adds, “We are actors. We are dancers. We are performers. So when I’m hired to go and do a drag queen story time, I understand my audience.”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

altabear

My name is David but my online nick almost everywhere is Altabear. I'm a web developer, graphic artist and outspoken human rights (and by extension, mens rights) advocate. Married to my gorgeous husband for 12 years, together for 25 and living with our partner of 4 years, in beautiful Edmonton, Canada.

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