- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2019

Organizers of a Houston Public Library program where drag queens could read stories to children are calling it quits after a drag queen who participated in the program turned out to be a registered child sex offender, sparking widespread outrage.

Trent Lira and Devin Will, the founders of Drag Queen Story Time, said they and their “kings and queens” who participated in the program have been the target of harassment and death threats since they first launched at the Freed-Montrose Library in September 2017. But that harassment escalated to dangerous levels, they said, after it was revealed that Albert Alfonso Garza, a 32-year-old drag queen who participated in the program under the name Tatiana Mala-Niña, was previously convicted for the aggravated sexual assault of an 8-year-old child.

The Houston Public Library issued an apology last week saying it failed to run a background check on Garza, as its policy requires. The Drag Queen Story Time organizers called it a “systematic mistake.”

“It was devastating,” the organizers said in a statement provided to Houstonia magazine. “We had insisted and insisted that what we were doing was safe for children, and yet here was a performer who had been charged with sexual assault of a minor.

“It is frustrating that the past conviction of a single performer now undermines the efforts of three dozen other drag kings and queens who have delighted parents and children alike with songs, costumes, and most importantly, stories,” the group said. “We have tried so hard to take the high road, to not stoop to mud-slinging. We have patiently listened to the people that declared we were sexualizing and molesting children. We have asked counter-protesters to be peaceful or not show up at all. We have been calm. We have been collected. But we are angry. And we are tired. And we are sick of well-intentioned but misinformed news stories that have only polarized people more.”

The group said they ultimately decided that it was time to “step away” from Drag Queen Story Time and “not continue with the program in March or for the foreseeable future.”

“What started as a fun community event shared between us, a couple of drag queens and kings, and a few families has become a national controversy,” they wrote. “People are being threatened. People are being hurt. We believe in what we’re doing, but we don’t believe in putting our friends, our families, or our children in danger.”

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