Updated: Jun 17
TEMPE, Ariz. (June 15, 2022) – On Tuesday, June 14, 2022, Arizona Senate Republicans proposed legislation that mirrors the recent legislation proposed by Texas and Florida that would ban minors from attending drag shows. This ban would include events where drag performers are present, like drag story hour events. Thanks to the Drag Queen Story Hour organization (https://www.dragqueenstoryhour.org), these events have gained popularity in recent years. The purpose of a drag story hour is to “bring inclusive storytimes to children and their grown-ups. Drag Queens and Kings inspire children to be themselves through books, songs, and artistic expression.” In contrast, the Arizona Senate Republicans state that they plan to “fight back against the sexual perversion children are being exposed to.” These same senators claim that theirs is “an effort to protect innocent children from adults who aim to expose them to inappropriate sexual behavior by working on legislation prohibiting minors from attending drag shows.”
Arizona Republican lawmakers have a long history of introducing legislation laced with hatred toward the LGBTQ+ community. In March this year, the Arizona House passed an anti-transgender sports and medicare ban. According to the Human Rights Organization (HRC), SB 1138 is a cruel and potentially life-threatening bill that would harm transgender youth for whom gender-affirming services are medically necessary. Among those affected by such hateful laws are the hundreds of small businesses in our state that partner with and support the LGBTQ+ community by providing a safe space where all are welcome to be themselves. Brick Road Coffee (located in Tempe) is one of those small businesses. Co-owners Gabe Hagen and Jesse Shank are angered and disheartened that legislation that hurts their community is again being proposed by the Arizona Republican Senate.
Brick Road Coffee is more than a coffee shop. We are a place for the community to gather and experience the joys of a safe space where everyone is encouraged to live as their authentic selves. We strive to connect our community with various experiences, including hosting Drag Story Hours in partnership with Drag Story Hour Arizona. Our collaboration brings inclusive storytimes to the children of Arizona and their grown-ups. Drag Queens and Kings inspire children to be themselves through books, songs, and artistic expression. Any restrictions on our rights to free expression would adversely impact our ability to connect our communities and is an assault on members of the LGBTQ+ community and the several small businesses supported by these events. - Gabe Hagen, Co-owner, Brick Road Coffee
Since its beginning, Drag Story Hour AZ (https://www.dragstoryhouraz.org/about) has consistently drawn audiences to its events and partnered with businesses and nonprofits across Arizona. Their audiences include families with LGBTQ+ parents/guardians, those with LGBTQ+ or questioning children, and many who have no LGBTQ+ members at all who want to raise their children to be open-minded, accepting, and respectful of all people. David Boyles, President of the Arizona chapter of Drag Story Hour, claims his organization would not have been able to sustain itself for nearly four years if there was not an audience of supportive parents and guardians who bring their families to his events.
Since co-creating Drag Story Hour AZ in 2019, I have come to discover that there is an extreme need for safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. Drag Story Hours allow individuals to experience the art of Drag and also allows children to freely express themselves. Legislation such as the bills that have been proposed by Florida, Texas, and Arizona will remove some of the few spaces that LGBTQ+ youth have to be their true selves. This proposed legislation is an attack to further marginalize and oppress the LGBTQ+ community and cause many steps backward for the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. - Michelle Miranda-Thorstad, Executive Director, Drag Story Hour AZ, board secretary, Drag Queen Story Hour
That environment is a far cry from the one being described by the Arizona Republican Senate, which states, “Policies of "nondiscrimination regarding gender expression and sexual orientation" are sending a message to society that we should disregard morals and values just to normalize these unscientific, broad, ill-defined and subjective terms, which set a dangerous precedent for our children that are too young to be exposed to such concepts.” One could argue that Republican lawmakers who tote such high moralistic integrity have long been at the forefront of news stories accusing them of pedophilia, sexual assault, racism, homophobia, and transphobia.
Unjust restrictions would harm our business, our employees, and our community at large. Brick Road Coffee is deeply saddened and upset that a minority of uninformed and hateful people would try to place restrictions on the imagination and creativity of children in our community. This proposed legislation is another example of how hatred is taught. Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation will continue to perpetuate hatred for generations to come. - Jesse Shank, Co-owner, Brick Road Coffee
The politicians attacking us are not responding to fears of child abuse and "grooming," which all but the dumbest among them know is a ridiculous conspiracy theory meant to manipulate their QAnon-addled supporters. Nor are they responding to the existence of LGBTQ+ children and young people, who have always existed and always will. Instead, they are responding to a world in which at least some parents, educators, and allied adults support these kids instead of teaching them to hate themselves. - David Boyles - Drag Story Hour AZ
According to Hagen, Shank, and Boyles, their partnership and drag story hour events at Brick Road Coffee have brought families closer. They have assisted parents/guardians with little or no previous exposure to the LGBTQ+ community in learning how to support and celebrate their children. They have allowed LGBTQ+ parents to show their children stories with families that look like theirs. LGBTQ+ children and young adults have gained the confidence and ability to express who they are to their parents, family members, and peers thanks to drag story hour events.
Drag Story Hour AZ hosts the first event at Brick Road Coffee, March 2022
Research shows that exposure to the LGBTQ+ community (no matter how a child identifies) positively impacts that child’s development. A recent study by ASU indicates the perceived impact of a STEM instructor revealing LGBTQ identity to students. The study, published in Life Sciences Education, was co-authored by Carly Busch, a biology education Ph.D. candidate in the School of Life Sciences, and co-advisers Sara Brownell and Katelyn Cooper. In the study, the instructor revealed her identity to her large-enrollment undergraduate biology course in less than three seconds. She did not mention her LGBTQ identity to the class at any other point during the term. Eight weeks later, researchers surveyed students about the perceived impact of the instructor sharing this information with them. Despite common concerns about whether it is appropriate for an instructor to reveal their LGBTQ identity to students and the potential for the instructor to face negative consequences, the study’s findings were encouraging:
Nearly two-thirds of students who remembered the instructor revealing her LGBTQ identity reported that it positively impacted their overall experience in the course.
More than 70% of students perceived that the instructor revealing her identity increased their feelings of connectedness with her and their willingness to approach her for mentorship.
It also increased the majority of students’ confidence in their ability to pursue a career in science, their sense of belonging in the course, and their sense of belonging within the scientific community.
A recent survey by the National Education Association (NEA) shows an increase in the mental health crisis among LGBTQ+ youth. Last year, nearly half of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered killing themselves, including more than half of trans youth, according to new data from The Trevor Project. These figures reveal a deadly mental-health crisis among high school and college-age LGBTQ+ youth of all races, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and by recent political attacks on LGTBQ+ students by state legislators across the nation.
Forty-two percent of LGBTQ+ youth - and fifty-two percent of trans youth said they seriously considered suicide in 2021. According to data from The Trevor Project, attempted suicide rates are higher for Black and Indigenous students.
Students said the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, like the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, are intensifying their mental health issues. NEA and its affiliates have strongly opposed this legislation.
There are ways for educators to help: LGBTQ+ students need supportive adults who use affirming words. They need access to safe spaces and events. And they need to see themselves positively, in the curriculum.
Arizona Republican lawmakers have failed to support gun control measures to prevent tragedies like the Uvalde, TX school shooting, refused to fund public education, and do nothing to prevent attacks on LGBTQ+ and other minority groups’ children and families. These lawmakers and politicians are showing the state of Arizona again and again that they are fundamentally anti-family and anti-children. Anxious parents and loved ones dread the day they read the headlines that yet another youth suicide has occurred because of the cycle of hate against LGBTQ+ people that legislators and other anti-LGBTQ organizations breed every single moment of every single day.