Edgeville Buzz

Drag Queen Story Hour Gives Kids A Fun Reading Outlet While Promoting Positive Gender Expression

Drag queen story hour (DQSH) has taken over the nation and the blend between reserved and extravagant is captivating. In Andersonville and around the country, the events promote a love for reading as well as a positive outlook on gender expression. Most importantly though, it’s just good ole dress-up fun!

The idea of DQSH came around 2015 in San Francisco after author Michelle Tea found story telling at local libraries to be heteronormative. Her answer was a more LGBT inclusive event for children between the ages of 3-10 that offer a more affirming environment. Since then, DQSH have exploded offering 27 chapters in the USA and around the world.

In the Midwest, DQSH got its start in Andersonville at Women and Children First bookstore (5233 N Clark) in 2017. Local performer Muffy Fishbasket connected with the bookstore’s owners through a mutual friend after they expressed interest in the program.

However, the wild enthusiasm over DQSH and its growing popularity caused Muffy to find a bigger location. They have since entertained at the Center On Halsted (3656 N Halsted), Shapiro Ballroom (1612 W Chicago), Carbon Arc (4620 N Lincoln), Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E Chicago), Steppenwolf (1650 N Halsted), Chicago Public Libraries, multiple suburban venues and most recently have started a monthly date at Colectivo Coffee (5425 N Clark St) in Andersonville.

Muffy believes that the diverse locations throughout the Chicagoland area give them a wider audience to create a  positive impact on parents and their children. With many of the DQSHs selling out, it is an income opportunity for the queens to perform a G-rated reading during the day and their typical R-rated “reads” at night.

DQSH lasts about an hour and consists of two-three stories per queen, a kiddie dance time in the middle to help them get out the wiggles and photos at the end. They try to keep the shows in the morning or later in the afternoon away from nap times. At some readings they will facilitate crafts and for older kids they will often include a question and answer session.
“We get questions like, ‘Are you a boy or are you a girl?’ a lot,” said Muffy Fishbasket. “It’s a gender thing. It can be uncomfortable for some to hear that question but they are kids. Let them answer the question and not be embarrassed about it. It’s all very positive.”
Muffy says that she has helped many queens across the country create their own unique DQSH chapter. Though she does read gender-focused stories like “Jacob’s New Dress,” she prefers to read classic works like “The Runaway Bunny” and “The Velveteen Rabbit” to keep it fun and imaginative.
“I have a little fan and his Mom that have followed me since the beginning and he has never asked if I am a boy or girl because he sees us instead as his superheroes and his princesses,” Muffy added. “I mean, kids are all into the pretend and so nonjudgemental at that age. They like the make-believe and the dress-up. And let’s be honest, it’s the same for the drag queens too!”
Muffy is also a teacher by day, as is most of the queens who work with her during DQSH. They are used to working with children in an educational environment and how to respond to them in an appropriate manner. The performers are carefully selected before they co-sign on to do any show.
“I want kids to leave having had fun,” Muffy said. “I think sometimes we expect kids to be on this super deep level and a lot of times they are. But sometimes it’s about just having a good time, forgetting about everything else and having fun.”
As for the future of DQSH in Chicago, look for more show locations and a possible book to be written by the Queen herself Muffy Fishbasket.
You can find Drag Queen Story Hour events and times at MuffyFishbasket.com.

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