Dragging glory through a story in Fishtown

The Free Library of Philadelphia hosts drag queen Brittany Lynn for a children’s storytime

Drag Queen storytime: Brittany Lynn reads to children at the Fumo Family Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on Tuesday, June 6. PHOTO: BRITTANY LYNN

By Lindsey Nolen

To help recognize the impact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have had on both their local communities and nationally, the Free Library of Philadelphia this year has chosen to participate in a 30 Days of Gay series. Rooted in expanding inclusivity and acceptance, this series will reach the littlest library-goers in Fishtown through Drag Queen Storytime with the fabulous Brittany Lynn on Thursday, June 29, from 4 to 5 p.m.
In support of its Pride Month initiative, Dana Giusti, children’s librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia, explained this storytime is part of a growing trend in children’s services. She explained that, when she first heard word of Lynn, a resident of 8th and Federal streets in South Philly, through the drag queen’s conducting of another storytime at the Fumo Family Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, she immediately thought it was a great idea. Thus, when the opportunity to host a drag storytime arose at the Fishtown Library, she put out a request that Lynn, a drag queen since 1996, be involved.
“Children need exposure when they’re young to people who may be different than them to realize that differences are perfectly fine, and that they’re nothing to be afraid of,” Giusti said. “They need to grow up in an inclusive environment, and should understand that being yourself is perfectly OK and is encouraged.”
She continued that, the message brought forth by Lynn, and all others who constantly and openly remain true to themselves when it comes to not fitting stereotypical gender norms, is important for children to begin understanding during their youth. Giusti believes from their experiences at Drag Queen Storytime, they should see and understand if this person is able to dress up and have fun while staying true to themselves, then they should be able to do the same.
With more than 100 people “interested” in the event on Facebook, and with more than 40 who have confirmed their attendance, Giusti anticipates a large crowd. Ironically, while Lynn, whose birth-given name is Ian Morrison and whose drag name is borrowed from his little sister’s name, insists that she is rarely nervous before performing, before reading to the children and their parents at Fumo on Tuesday, June 6, she admitted she had never been more nervous in her life.
Yet, having come out as gay before the internet really took off in the 1990s, Lynn remembers feeling as if there were no other gay people around. Thus, instilling within the children she reads to the message that, whether you’re gay or straight, it’s important to be proud of who you are, makes all the nerves worthwhile.
“This event is about diversity and inclusion, not about pushing a gay agenda,” Lynn said. “The kids see drag on TV and through the mainstream media. I think it’s a great experience for them and their parents to witness another culture and to meet someone with a different lifestyle.”
During her first story time reading at Fumo, Lynn recalls the children as having been interactive and excited. After she read to them, Lynn asked questions about the story to which children jumped at the chance to answer.
“They also asked me questions about my makeup, and one 5-year-old girl asked me where I got my shoes,” Lynn laughed. “When you’re that young, you really absorb information and have the most open mind.”
Often called the “First Lady of Philadelphia,” for her longstanding work with both gay and straight events and initiatives across the city, 43-year-old Northeast native Lynn plans to read “Red: A Crayon’s Story” at the Fishtown Library storytime event. Within this children’s book, a blue crayon is mistakenly identified as “red,” leading to an identity crisis. Therefore, the purpose in reading this particular picture book to a child audience is to discuss wrongful labeling that occurs throughout society.
“I’m not sure if the library will continue to hold drag storytime after Pride month is over, but I think it’s important they do because it helps parents and other people attending to see a drag queen in person and learn about the lifestyle,” Lynn said.
For more information on her storytime event, visit:facebook.com/events/1400961943312884/.