Library employees to undergo ‘sensitivity training’ after drag queen dispute

One of the drag queen storytelling events at the library (Jen Zielinski- Kelowna Capital News)

In British Columbia, acting on your belief that men should not pretend to be women around young children can get you sent for re-education.

That’s what’s going to happen to Okanagan Regional Library (ORL) president Don Nettleton and other members of the library management team: They will be undergoing sensitivity and diversity training after they were publicly critical of a drag queen story-reading event.

Such events, which aim to redefine the female gender for very young children, are stirring up controversy across North America.

The incident arose in September when Nettleton sent out a memo about a new event at a Kelowna downtown library where female impersonators would read stories to children during sessions on Saturdays in September and November.

“A controversial and potentially very divisive story time program has arisen within the ORL,” Nettleton said in the Sept. 18 memo.

“Almost half of the leadership team was strongly in support of the library being involved in this type of programming … while the other half of the leadership team saw offering such a program target at 3-6 year olds as inappropriate for their age.”

In the memo, Nettleton also said that the event was bound to cause problems with the Kelowna community.

“The announced program, while claiming to be promoting diversity and acceptance, will be offensive to a significant segment of our society,” he wrote.

“These two story times are set to take place in a core program aimed at very young children. The age of this programming will be concerning to many.”

The library received approximately 350 pieces of correspondence from the community in response to the memo, both in favor of the drag queen story hour and against it.

Michal Utko, director of marketing and community with ORL, confirmed the drag queen story event will continue as is for the foreseeable future.

He also said “sensitivity training” for the management team will occur soon.

“It hasn’t been scheduled yet. It will be something happens sooner than later, and no later than next month.”

Despite the controversy, drag queen storytelling events aren’t new to Kelowna. Indigo Kelowna has been offering drag queen storytime events with female impersonators with false names like “Daisy Confused” and “Freida Whales” for at least two years.


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