(NewsNation) — June is Pride month, and all month long there will be events celebrating the LGBTQ community across the nation. One of those events happening Monday in New York City is Drag Queen Story Hour.
Over the last five years, drag queens have been reading to children in public libraries and schools in the city. But in other parts of the country, the program has faced very strong opposition.
In Hoboken, New Jersey, Miss Harmonica Sunbeam captivates her young audience with animated reading and fun singing.
Sunbeam uses Drag Queen Story Hour to teach kids about acceptance of themselves and tolerance of others who may look different or love differently.
“I may tell a story about a kid who has two moms. I may tell a story about a kid who has a white parent and a black parent,” Sunbeam said.
Drag Queen Story Hour originated in San Francisco in 2015 and has since established chapters across the country and around the world.
Drag queens have been reading in public schools and libraries in New York City since 2018.
NewsNation has learned the nonprofit organization has received more than $200,000 in state and city contract money since 2018 to present the hour-long readings. Critics say that’s too much taxpayer money spent on the program and, in some cases, parents claim they didn’t know their kids were being exposed to the program.
The city’s Department of Education spokeswoman told the New York Post, “We believe our schools play a critical role in helping young people learn about and respect people who may be different from them.”
Over the weekend, members of the Proud Boys, an extremist group, stormed a San Francisco Bay Area public library, interrupting a Drag Queen Story Hour reading by yelling homophobic and transphobic slurs. Authorities have launched a hate crimes investigation into the incident.
Deputies responded to the San Lorenzo Library Saturday afternoon following reports of a disturbance during the reading for preschool-aged children in celebration of Pride Month, said Lt. Ray Kelly with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
The host of the children’s story program, Bay Area drag queen Panda Dulce, said on Instagram that the group disrupted the event, shouting “tranny” and “pedophile.” The disruption “totally freaked out all of the kids” and the group “attempted to escalate to violence,” Dulce wrote.
No arrests have been made, no one was physically harmed and sheriff’s officials are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime and harassment of children, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“It appears the group of men may be affiliated with the Proud Boys organization,” said Kelly, adding that the five men involved were wearing the black and yellow colors associated with the far-right group.
Kelly said the sheriff’s office plans to post deputies at future story-hour events at the library “to deal with any disruptors.”
In Idaho, more than two dozen members of a white supremacist group were arrested near a Pride event.
Police say the 31 Patriot Front members had riot gear and were seen loading people into a U-Haul at a hotel parking lot in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Among those arrested was Thomas Rousseau of Grapevine, Texas, who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the 23-year-old who founded the group.
And last week in Texas, a lawmaker announced plans to push for legislation, banning minors from attending drag-related events.
But back in New Jersey, no one’s complaining, at least not on this day.
A New Jersey mother Erica Block said during the Hoboken event, “People not getting the exposure to things outside of their own little circle, and the earlier the better to know there’s a lot outside your backyard.”
Florida Gov. Ron Desantis recently suggested he’s open to using Child Protective Services to investigate parents in his state who take or allow their kids to attend drag queen-related events.
Another Florida lawmaker proposed legislation to charge a parent with a felony and terminate their rights if they bring their child to what he calls, “a perverted sex show” aimed at kids in Florida.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.