Pride London Festival: Local drag queen Mz. Affra-Tighty will read stories to kids Saturday at London library’s first-ever Drag Queen Storytime

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Same city, very different story.

London’s public library will embrace the spirit of the LGBTQ community Saturday, turning a regular story hour for children into their first-ever Drag Queen Storytime as part of Pride week.

It’s a dramatic about-face in a city that only two decades ago was censured by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission after then-mayor Dianne Haskett refused to issue a gay-pride proclamation at city hall.

Kids, parents and drag queens are invited Saturday to celebrate literacy and identity, library board chair Scott Courtice said.

“It’s a playful way to reflect the diversity of our community, and also to model acceptance of differences and celebration of uniqueness,” he said.

Mz. Affra-Tighty (also known as Katu Azzya), a local drag queen, will be the guest reader at Saturday’s event, sharing picture books and a few songs with the kids. Costumes are encouraged, library officials say.

“Different doesn’t mean wrong,” Azzya said. “Maybe this will help some kid — and parents, too — feel comfortable with who they are.”

Azzya said he wants to make sure no young Londoners feel alone: “I’m trying to (give) what I didn’t get as a child.”

First started in major U.S. cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, Drag Queen Storytime is a natural fit with the public library’s work, Courtice said.

“It’s just another way for us to live our values of inclusion.”

Critics are to be expected, but Courtice said he’d challenge anyone who is uncomfortable to experience the event.

“It’s a way to promote literacy, but it’s a fun and irreverent way to do so,” he said.

Pride London Festival president Andrew Rosser said he hopes activities like Drag Queen Storytime will encourage kids to celebrate Pride along with adults.

“Any time we can get younger people out to learn, to be exposed to different communities, I think it’s wonderful,” he said.

“The stories that they’re presenting are about gender expression, gender diversity, so they’re really positive messages they’ll be reading to the kids, which I think is really important.”

Courtice said he’s bringing his own daughter to the event.

He also believes readers can walk away with an important lesson.

“The message is simple — it’s OK to be yourself.”

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