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Chicago-area library cancels drag queen bingo event for teens over ‘vitriolic’ threats

The Downers Grove Public Library said the event, scheduled to coincide with National Coming Out Day, “was meant to be an evening of fun and celebration of self-identity and self-expression.”

A library in a southwest suburb of Chicago has canceled a drag queen bingo program for teenagers “due to threats” it has received.

The Downers Grove Public Library had planned the event, which was geared toward seventh through 12th graders, for National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

In a statement Monday, the library announced it was not moving forward with the program because “it is not possible to provide a safe place for everyone due to the threats made.”

Library Director Julie Milavec, who declined to disclose the nature of the threats. said authorities are investigating.

“Due to the severity of the threats made against the library, we have been forced to cancel the event. It is our responsibility to keep you safe,” Milavec said. “We are disappointed and saddened by some of the vitriolic feedback that we received for what was meant to be an evening of fun and celebration of self-identity and self-expression.”

The program was to have featured drag queen Aurora Divine, several rounds of bingo games and a “short, age-appropriate” lip-sync performance of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” the library said in a statement late last month.

The event was meant to “provide a window to the world, as well as a mirror to it, creating opportunities for patrons to see the wonderfully diverse community in which we live,” Milavec said.

The library said last month that it had received over 300 emails, with feedback split and supporters “slightly outweighing opposition.”

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, the GOP nominee for the 6th Congressional District, opposed the program, saying it was “inappropriate.”

“I join parents across the district in denouncing this event, just as I would denounce a library introducing kids to straight sex by holding a burlesque show,” he said in an Aug. 29 statement. “To be clear, I have no interest in regulating the private, consensual activities and decisions of adults. This event, however, targets children. It’s inappropriate, and an unacceptable use of taxpayer funds.”

The library had stressed that the program would be appropriate and not sexual in nature.

“We want everyone in our community to see the library and know they are represented and cared for here,” it said.

The library said an anonymous community member donated the full cost of the event and sponsored the program, in which Aurora Divine would have been paid $125. 

Registration was required. Interest in the program was so high that the library had a waitlist.

Officials apologized to the teens who registered for the event, saying it the library is “determined to find additional ways to support you and your friends in safe, fun, and inclusive representation throughout the library.”

Rep. Sean Cast, a Democrat who represents Illinois’ 6th District and is running for re-election, said in a statement Monday that he was “disheartened” to hear of the cancellation.

He blamed Pekau and Awake Illinois, a grassroots organization that decries critical race theory, saying they “created an unsafe environment in the community.”

“Let’s be clear. This event was canceled because, after my Republican opponent and his far-right allies at Awake Illinois publicly issued a call-to-action to their supporters, the library received severe threats that endangered our community,” he said.

“The 6th District is a place for kindness, love and decency. Hate has no home here,” he continued.

Awake Illinois touted the cancellation Monday on Twitter as a “victory for the protection of children,” accusing the library’s event of “targeting minors.”

In another tweet, the group said: “We are grateful law enforcement is addressing alleged threats. We hope the library considers events for LGBTQ youth that will have integrity and will truly enrich the Downers Grove community.”

Library officials said they “stand by the event and Aurora Divine.”

“Hate did not win today,” the library said in its statement.

By Marlene Lenthang

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