Upcoming event at Nashua Public Library raises ire
NASHUA – An event set for Saturday at the Nashua Public Library is causing a major controversy for some in the community.
What was intended to be a small program for a few teens has drawn significant attention, and Nashua Public Library Director Jen McCormack said it likely will detract from the intended nature of the program.
The event – Drag Queen Teen Time with special guest Monique Toosoon – is set for 4 p.m. Satuday.
In an email, McCormack made it clear that the event is not a drag show, rather it is an opportunity for teens to meet a drag performer and ask questions about their art, costuming, makeup, etc.
“A program like this is an excellent way for anyone to get accurate, first-hand information about a current topic that gets a lot of coverage in the media,” McCormack said in the email. “Like any of our programs, it is strictly voluntary, and we expect that families will make decisions for their own children about whether they may attend. I know that this program will not be welcomed by everyone, but I stand by it as an appropriate and timely program for our teens.”
However, during Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled meeting with the library’s Board of Trustees, things did not go as planned when about 20 people showed up looking to speak about Saturday’s event, most opposing it.
Judy Blachek attended the meeting and said there was a huge presence of people.
“They wanted to speak, and the library Board of Trustees had a discussion amongst themselves and determined they don’t really have a process in place to do that,” Blachek said.
She explained that opponents asked McCormack to explain how it came about and was approved.
“She explained it clearly, and the board voted to maintain the program and keep it,” Blachek said. “They said that they had enough information from people in email and it was a 50-50 split, and that they knew they wouldn’t change anyone’s mind even if they had the opportunity to speak tonight (Tuesday night).”
Blachek said during these meetings, there is typically no opportunity for public comment. Nevertheless, she explained those opposing the drag event said it was not fair that they could not speak and were quite upset.
“I’m supporting it,” Blachek said. “I feel like having people who are different come and speak to teens who are often trying to figure out their life is a good thing. And if it prevents a kid from feeling invalidated and alone at a time when they consider suicide or that sort of thing, then I think this is a very, very good thing.”
However, Beth Scaer and her husband, Stephen, do not support the event, and are concerned this will spark interest in that lifestyle among the teens attending, causing them to explore further on the internet.
However, Nashua Board of Aldermen member Tom Lopez said he thinks the event represents a group of people, and that anybody is welcome to do more research if they want to, “that’s what a library is about.” He said that would be the same if somebody were to come and present on their experiences as a person of faith. He said somebody may take that, and look into that experience and want to know more.
Nevertheless, Stephen Scaer said, although from reading online, it seems Monique Toosoon is a polite person who will be providing a clean show. He is concerned about other performances Toosoon may put on outside of the library.
“My bigger objection is that there’s just been a lot of suffering because of people treating sex as recreation, and if you go to the drag shows that’s what you see,” Stephen Scaer said.
Library officials noted that this is not a drag show, rather it is a program featuring words from Toosoon and a quest-and-anser session for kids ages 12 to 17.
“I think the library staff has a stellar record,” Lopez said. “I think we can trust them to present whatever they’re presenting in an appropriate manner, and I don’t think this is any different from having a veteran tell their story, in making sure that it is age appropriate, or having somebody talk about a historical topic. It’s a cultural piece for teenagers, it’s what the teenagers asked for, and I trust the library.”
However, Beth Scaer said she is really worried about what the library is exposing kids to, and said it’s encouraging more gender confusion among those attending.
“What they’re doing is they’re telling kids, ‘hey this is a good lifestyle,’ – someone who mocks women, portrays them as sexual objects – so it’s misogynist, and ‘hey kid, you can do this too, you can become a drag queen and sexualize women and mock women and lead this disgusting lifestyle.'”
Toosoon said one of the biggest things in this country right now is teen suicide, and she wants to be that role model for kids, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. She said she is not just putting on this event for one crowd.
“It’s huge, because teens aren’t being accepted for who they are,” she said.
She said during the event she will be reading poetry to the teens before taking any questions they may have. She said, maybe these teens are struggling with something they are trying to get out, something she knows all too well, and she just wants to make them feel empowered. She said growing up, she was tormented for being gay, and now with this event, she said the program is being portrayed as being a pornographic event. Yet, she said, her shows are not pornographic, especially this upcoming teen event.
“Drag is more like going to a comedy show, there’s nothing pornographic,” Toosoon said.
She noted that Saturday’s event is completely censored, right down to her costume. In addition, she said her goal is to help, even at least one person, to feel comfortable with who they are.
“I don’t understand why the group is ignoring this message and just trashing me,” Toosoon said.
She said, as of right now, this is just a one-time event, although she said there is talk about something else happening around spring, depending on how well received everything is this weekend.
“Everyone will see on Saturday that this is truly a positive event,” Toosoon said. “There’s no way you can leave Saturday thinking this won’t be beneficial to a teenager.”