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Delaware Library Cancels 'Drag 101' Class After Receiving Threats

Drag performer Selena West with the staff of the Delaware County District Library.
Selena West
Drag performer Selena West with the staff of the Delaware County District Library.

Delaware County District Library cancelled a planned program called “Drag 101.” The class was scheduled for June 5, and was intended to teach teens about the art form.

Delaware’s library director George Needham said in a statement they received hundreds of phone calls and emails. Some were supportive. Others, not so much.

In a Facebook video, a candidate for a northern Ohio state senate seat, Melissa Ackison, says the class was the work of the "radical left."

“Our children are under attack,” she says in the video. “Right here in Ohio, our libraries are hosting summer reading programs with inappropriate content for underage children to get in touch with their sexuality.”

Library staff said they received hostile, angry, threatening messages and decided to call off the program after two weeks of deliberation with local law enforcement.

“Let me be clear that this is in no way a victory for anyone,” Needham said in a statement.

He added that “threats of protests, hate and violence stand in direct conflict” with the library’s mission, and they felt they could not hold the event safely.

The program’s creator, Selena T. West, understood the call but was disappointed. The curriculum of the class was not meant to be controversial, she says.

“How to build a character, how to style a wig, how to make a costume, how to do makeup, and to go through the history of drag from Shakespeare to pop culture in TV and movies," West says. "It had nothing to do with gender or identity."

West says that drag is not inherently inappropriate for children.

“What we’re doing is nothing about sex or sexuality," West says. "We’re simply going off of traditional drag, what that looks like."

The class will now be held June 5 at the Secret Identity Comics Shop in Delaware, which donated its space. West is relieved it's still happening.

“If I had a program like this, it would have changed my life, because I would have seen somebody that was part of my tribe," West says. "If there’s just one person that wants this class, that person deserves to have that class.”

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.