Newcastle drag queen Timberlina said she will continue to host Rainbow Storytimes “until the day she dies” amid growing calls from right-wing groups around the country to scrap the events, writes Holly Hazlewood.
The discourse of discontent around drag performers at large, and in particular those hosting events catering for younger people, has risen dramatically this year, with several events cancelled, postponed or disrupted by protestors across the country.
Rainbow storytime and singalong at Hawthorn Library and drag queen storytime at Oakleigh Library were both cancelled. Monash Council cancelled an event in May after the event was targeted by neo-Nazis while Eltham Library’s drag storytime event was moved online after threats. Melbourne café, Chelsea Rebel, cancelled an event after bigots suggested they would dox the home addresses of performers. All up, Victoria has had at least ten events cancel this year due to threats from far-right groups. The Victorian Greens introduced a bill to the parliament’s upper house that would amend the state’s anti-vilification laws to protect people on the grounds of gender, sexuality, HIV status or disability.
City of Perth Library says it is committed to hosting drag storytime events, despite an event in May being targeted by protesters who hurled homophobic slurs at participants including local drag queen and host Cougar Morrison.
While in New South Wales, Goulburn was forced to cancel an event in May that was set to be hosted by Betty Confetti.
Having hosted rainbow storytimes for the past four years, Newcastle drag queen Timberlina knows the power they have to change lives, young and old.
“No matter what’s going to happen, I am going to turn up there and I will be doing it because I find it so important for the community and the next generation,” Timberlina said.
“These people who feel we shouldn’t be in front of kids, we have a time and a place. I can do my adult show and my kids shows and I can do my over-65+ shows, because that’s a different demographic again.”
Much of the anti-drag rhetoric in Australia has been imported from America where outright bans on drag shows of all kinds are having unprecedented impacts on queer performers. Montana recently banned drag storytimes completely while Tennessee signed a bill into law restricting public drag show performances of all kinds. Florida lawmakers now have the power to take away licenses of establishments that allow children into ‘adult live performances’, which has been interpreted as a further attack on drag performers.
Timberlina says her local shows are not immune from those who seek to silence drag queens.
“Four of these people turned up to storytimes last month,” she said. “Once the media turned up – and we are lucky they are on our side – we had 150 counter-protesters, drowning out those people who were there to protest. That just warms my heart to have that here in Newcastle.”
Timberlina, who has been performing drag for the last six years, says the noticeable increase in dissenting voices about drag performers in Australia is clearly taking cues from American conservatives.
“Every month since we started (rainbow storytime), we have had the most amazing people turn up with no backlash. It’s only been in the last six months with what’s happening in the US that people are like ‘Oh they shouldn’t be in front of our kids doing this’. But we aren’t doing any of the sexual stuff they think we are doing in front of the kids. We’re reading books about diversity, inclusion and how people can be raised in different environments to really try and educate kids before they go to school.
“Storytime is all about providing that safe space for families to come into but also for those kids to ask the questions they want to. They can scream out to me and I will answer them, to know they are loved and can be whoever they want to be when they grow up.”
Timberlina thanked all of her fans and also Newcastle City Council for their commitment to hosting rainbow storytime events in the city. But she also had a clear message for those who wished to spread messages of hate and misinformation.
“You don’t have to come to storytime. If you don’t like it, don’t come, that’s fine. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” she said. “Just be kind. There’s enough hate in the world without adding to it. I will fight to the day I die to keep doing rainbow storytimes because it’s so important for the next generation.“
Follow Timberlina at https://www.facebook.com/thetimberlina