How the members of Drag Queen Story Time are educating kids on gender and identity.
By Genevieve Kyle.
In New York’s public libraries, community spaces, and now the zoom realm, Yuhua Hamasaki sits down, opens a book, and begins to read to a range of children, aged 3-18. Yuhua is a drag queen and a reader at Drag Queen Story Hour NYC (DQSH). Empowered by the desire for “a world where children can learn from LGBTQ+ stories and experiences,” Yuhua (decked in glamorous clothing and sporting a killer cut crease) and DQSH NYC Curriculum Committee member, Mor Erlich, show kids the world of possibilities in the pages of children’s books.
Over email to Mission, Yuhua explains that the program was designed as a means to “interact with the youth and show a little bit more about what it means to be LGBTQ+ in the world.” With an increase in programs that offer education, and a desire to help those in the LGBTQ+ community, Yuhua knew that she wanted to be a part of DQSH NYC and have the opportunity to show kids that they belong and can achieve.
As a drag queen, part of the experience can be to teach younger generations what drag is. As Yuhua states, “drag is a feeling that we have on the inside, and want to express to the world.” To explain drag to children, Yuhua draws a parallel between drag and dressing up. “Dressing up for Halloween, a special holiday or their birthday. This occasion lets them feel courageous and happy, and that’s how I feel when I’m in drag,” she explains. “When I’m in my drag character: Hamasaki by beta, I feel all those beautiful characteristics. I feel proud and like I can conquer the world, especially through Drag Queen Story Hour, because I have the superpower to spread knowledge.”
This sharing of knowledge is made possible through the organization’s range of books and programs such as The Dragtivity Book, made in collaboration with LGBTQ+ educational platform Sez Me and created by queer transgender artist, Mor, who sits on DQSH NYC’s Curriculum Committee. The Dragtivity Book and Sez Me were born as “educational tools for engaging kids in conversation about gender and identity.” Understanding that “sharing books with kids can be a creative way to address specific topics without putting any individuals in an uncomfortable or vulnerable situation,” Mor created the two entities as interactive and informative ways to teach kids about gender and identity.
Celebrating diversity and fluidity while giving kids a voice, Sez Me “turns LGBTQ+ ‘issues’ into LGBTQ+ topics.” With the Motto “There’s so many ways to be!” it “holds creative workshops and presentations for professionals, families and youth, with topics ranging from gender fluidity and sensitivity in the classroom/ workplace to Drag workshops.”
For the creation of Dragtivity Time and The Dragtivity Book, Sez Me joined forces with DGSH NYC. Through the book’s 20 pages, readers have the opportunity to partake in activities such as “find your own drag name,” “circle your pronouns,” and “match the styling objects.” As Mor explains, “The Dragtivity Book gives kids an introduction to the art of drag to help them to unpack stereotypes and see beyond the gender binary in the world around them.”
Through members who give their heart to create a better future, Drag Queen Story Hour NYC is carving a future of love and acceptance for queer people everywhere. As Yuhua describes the DQSH NYC experience, “[it] teaches future generations to accept all kinds of life, all kinds of love from all walks around the earth, and no matter how different anyone is, to respect each other.”
Image Credit: Yuhua Hamasaki