POCATELLO — Despite a change of venue last week, dozens of families showed up to Reading Time With the Queens’ “Sew What?” event Saturday afternoon.
The event had been scheduled at the Marshall Public Library in Pocatello for months. But last week, the organization announced a new location for safety reasons.
“After extensive discussions and planning meetings, the board of Reading Time with the Queens has decided that the safest option for our community is to relocate our Sew What? program,” the not-for-profit announced on its Facebook page March 9.
Instead, it was held at the Temple Emanuel Jewish synagogue. Cali Je, the organization’s president, tells EastIdahoNews.com temple leaders were quick to open their doors.
“I’m very glad to have people like that in our community,” she said.
Reading Time With the Queens is more than just a person in drag reading books, according to volunteers Jerron Hansen and Gina Lee. There is music time, arts and crafts and lessons in American Sign Language.
“It’s a very interactive program,” Lee said.
It also teaches kids to be more accepting of those around them, and that there is a community for them “no matter how they feel.”
“It’s a beautiful program. I think we need more like it,” Hansen added.
Families who attended were greeted by roughly a dozen people prepared to form an umbrella tunnel for them. Attendees could also choose fist-bumps, umbrella twirls or “goofy dances” as they walked through the greeters.
Hansen and Lee were among those waiting to greet people in attendance. Both of them believe firmly that events like this are absolutely necessary.
“If there was a program like this (when I was younger), I would not have attempted to kill myself multiple times,” Hansen said. “It’s really just about getting in-tune with yourself, and understanding that there’s nothing wrong with you.”
Lee’s family has also been affected by limited understanding of the LGBTQIA community. She said her son, now an adult married to a trans woman, never had an outlet for his feelings.
“Had there been things like this when my children were little, it would have definitely been easier for my son to be more open and honest about who he felt he was,” said Lee. “Something like this would have helped him feel more in charge of his own emotions and feelings.”
The change in venue was in response to protests against the event.
On its Facebook page, Reading Time With the Queens said protestors would not be allowed inside the event, outside the temple or at the library.
“We will not be tolerating any disruption and will be prioritizing the needs of children, parents and family members,” the organization posted in its thread about the change of venue. “This includes removing people from the premises if they are not there in good faith.”
Despite safety concerns, Lee is grateful to those who attended and that the event was able to happen peacefully. She reiterates her belief that the work they do is important for all children.
“Being a child now is hard enough. Adults adding difficulty to it is unnecessary,” she said. “We all need to feel like we belong to something, and to be targeted by people that are scared or don’t understand when it’s a program for children (is) really sad.”