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Waterville Bookstore's Planned Pride Event Has Sparked Protests

Drag Queen Story Hour

An upcoming reading at a small bookstore in Waterville, billed as a "Drag Queen Story Hour," is now at the center of protests and counter-protests after it stirred an uproar online earlier this week. The event at Waterville's Children's Book Cellar is one of many that have taken place nationwide in recent years, in which drag queens read to students as a way to promote diversity and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

Owner Ellen Richmond says she organized the event as part of the city's Central Maine Pride Festival.

"If you are a child who's concerned about your own sexuality, you're okay. You're good. You're loved. There's a place in the world for you," Richmond says.

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro has denounced the event, which he describes in an email as, "reprehensible," and meant to, "deconstruct the natural and correct understanding of young children with regards to gender."

Opponents have also organized protests of the event online. Richmond says it has been disheartening to see the controversy detracting from the inclusive message of the event.

"By protests, counter protests, hate mail, all that,” Richmond says. “And I feel really badly about that. Because that wasn't the intent."

The reading is being put on as part of the Central Maine Pride Festival in early June, which was endorsed by city councilors earlier this month.

Supporters have also emerged in defense of the event. Richmond says she has heard from many people who are now planning to attend and even dress up themselves. Other organizations in Maine have put on or are planning similar events, including one next month in South Portland.