Soldotna Pride postpones drag story hour at library after online backlash

a library
The Soldotna Public Library on Binkley Street (Sabine Poux/KDLL)

A drag queen story hour event planned for the Soldotna Public Library this weekend has been postponed following online uproar about the event.

The storytime event was part of Soldotna Pride’s winter celebration, called Happy New Queer, scheduled for Saturday. Other events include a drag trivia night at The Goods in Soldotna, and karaoke at The Bow Bar in Kenai.

The organization announced the postponement in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, citing online rhetoric and a need to protect participant safety.

“The reason that we’re hosting this event is to create a joyous, loving and wholesome situation and safe place for queer kids, which is something that I didn’t have growing up and that a lot of people in this community don’t have,” said Joe Spady, an organizer of Soldotna Pride and one of the scheduled storytellers for the event.

He said conversations on social media got more violent and led organizers to postpone.

Much of the online discussion focused on one particular drag performer whose name included a sexual innuendo, listed at the bottom of the promotional poster with other drag queens. Spady said that performer was never going to be a part of the story hour, and was set to participate in the adult-oriented event also advertised on the poster. That performer has since pulled out of the event entirely because of online threats.

Spady blamed poor poster design for the confusion, but said he’s found online discussions to be hypocritical, and reminiscent of the backlash to a Pride in the Park drag performance in 2022 that involved a viral video of a dancer.

“The people who were most offended spread it the most, made sure that everyone saw those images that they found so offensive,” he said. “They’ve spread it as wide as possible, in the same way that people who found her name offensive have been spreading it more than anyone.”

Upon complaints, Spady said, the poster was edited.

In a statement shared last Friday, Soldotna City Manager Janette Bower clarified that the city and library were not hosting or sponsoring the story hour event, and that Soldotna Pride had simply rented a community room. Although the organization’s flier clarified this, Bower said a cropped version had been circulated online.

She said the library frequently rents its rooms to community organizations.

“This practice allows our library to serve as a welcoming and inclusive space for a wide range of community activities,” Bower wrote. “The City is committed to promoting diversity, inclusivity, and the free exchange of ideas within our community. We respect the rights of individuals and organizations to express themselves in a peaceful and lawful manner.”

Spady said a new date hasn’t been set, but Soldotna Pride is planning to find a safe and inoffensive way to host the story hour event. The trivia and karaoke events are still scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively.

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