NORWALK, Conn. – Most days, the Norwalk Public Library is a quiet place. Sunday afternoon was a different story.
About 30 people stood outside the library, clustered around a statue of the Virgin Mother Mary, repeating “Hail Mary” over and over again, refusing to say anything to passersby. Upstairs a drag queen and king read picture stories to children and their parents in the packed second-floor auditorium.
Video by Harold F. Cobin at end of story
“The purpose of this event is to have a fun story time and give a message of love and acceptance,” said Vicky Oatis, NPL Director of Children’s Services, as she began the library’s second Drag Queen Story Hour.
To the protestors downstairs, the drag event was teaching “even the littlest children that biological sex means nothing, that sex is just ‘assigned at birth,’ that people can be any gender they want, and that ‘It’s OK to be gay.’”
“These are all LIES. This is child abuse,” the flier from MassResistance continues.
MassResistance describes itself as a leading pro-family activist organization, based in Massachusetts but with support in all 50 states. The protest is part of a pattern, as the group states on its website, “Across the country we’ve exposed the obscene sexual nature of the ‘Drag Queens’ – and even criminal backgrounds of some of them. And we’ve helped parents organize and strongly confront the public officials behind this outrage.”
At least two of the men outside the library appeared to be Catholic priests. Norwalk Board of Education member Barbara Meyer-Mitchell asked one of them what church he was from, but he kept walking, stone faced.
Many protestors appeared to be from out of town, and as they repeated their prayer, members of Free Mom Hugs greeted visitors warmly and welcomed them to the story hour upstairs.
Natalina Santozzi of Free Mom Hugs said she had traveled here from central Connecticut because, “We heard there be some protesters so we were here to just affirm and support anyone coming in.”
“Free Mom Hugs is a group of affirming parents and allies who love the LGBTQ+ community unconditionally,” the group’s website states. Santozzi said it has Board members throughout Connecticut.
The “drag queen” event actually included a drag king. All read books from the library’s collection, on the theme of being different.
That includes Not Quite Narwhal, the tale of a unicorn born in the sea and believing himself to be a narwhal until fate shows him the truth. The unicorn fears he’ll be rejected by both groups but then coasts to love and acceptance.
While that was being read by “Frankie Cyanide,” the king of the trio, the protestors downstairs dispersed after the man leading the event ended the praying and said, “God already has destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah once. They’ve been trying to rebuild it since. God will destroy it again.”
The protesters were advised to pray for the people upstairs, the world and for the end of abortion.
One protesting woman told NancyOnNorwalk that she’d been dragged to the event by her employee but added, “You’re wrecking your children.”
Upstairs, “Robin Fierce” had made a flamboyant entrance, then read “The ABC’s of Identity,” a book written by Norwalker Karen Brown.
“In this world there are many ways that certain people have more privilege than other groups of people, or certain groups are treated unfairly,” Fierce said. “This can be based on gender, on who you love, on the color of your skin, where you’re born and a lot of other things. Because (of) this people get hurt, in a lot of ways.”
“Kindness is when we treat people with goodness,” Fierce said. “It can be generous, thoughtful, honest – allowing yourself to feel what another person feels and accepting people for who they are. In other words, lots of people don’t take the time to understand others and that helps create a world where only certain groups of people get hurt, but being open and being kind is the only way we can learn to in harmony with people of different identities, like we are all here today. We’re all being kind to each other have a good time, right?”
Fierce, Cyanide and Anita Mánger then performed for the audience. They were swarmed by children and adults seeking to have their photos taken with the dragsters.
Casey Fitzpatrick, owner of Troupe429: Bar & Performance Space, which co-produced the event with the library, said the first Norwalk Drag Queen Story Hour was held in July. The performers, who appear regularly in his bar and all live and work in Fairfield County, then did a show at the Stamford library. They’ll be back in Norwalk in July and will do another Stamford story hour in October, he said.
“As a person who struggled with my identity my whole life, I wanted to be able to do this with children. Be, like, ‘Hey, it’s OK to just be who you are and do what you do.’ And this teaches kids acceptance and shows them something different, even if this isn’t what they’re going to be at the end of the day,” said Fierce, 24.
The highlight of the event was walking by the protestors, she said, explaining that he’d been warned not to but was running late and chose the shortcut.
She said, “They didn’t say anything to me, and I’m just like, ‘Yes, take my power back.’”
This story was copy edited at 1:22 p.m. to correct an error: Anita Mánger, pronounced Anita Manager, is correct. At 1:41 p.m., more information was added.