Public debates about LGBTQ people and the laws and policies that impact their lives can often be too reductive,. Using the phenomenon of drag queen story hour, and the anti-LGBTQ backlash, we’ll unpack the narrative as it has unfolded in cities around the country. Is the narrative a cute human interest story, a controversy, an issue of “religious freedom”, or a way to incorporate local performance artists in the civic life of the community?
Panelists: Vanessa Carr Kennedy, Ross Murray, Ben Myers, Seale Paterson, Jordyn Schmidt
VANESSA CARR KENNEDY is a New Orleans musician, drag performer and advocate for the LGBT community. Vanessa Carr Presents produces four shows and coordinates events and fundraisers for many organizations in the community. In 2017, Vanessa was named Saint Vanessa of the Betwixt and Between by the Big Easy Sisters for her work with them and her support of the LGBT community. Vanessa also holds the titles of Miss Louisiana Leatherette 2016, Miss New Orleans Pride 2016 and Miss Tulane Avenue Bar, Emeritus. Vanessa Carr Presents participates in and coordinates “Drag Queen Story Hour” at the Alvar Branch Library in New Orleans. VCP also produces “Divas @ the Dive Drag” Karaoke, “Tacos, Tequila, and Tiaras Family Friendly Drag Show,” “Ooh La La! Sexy, Sultry Drag,” “Vanessa Carr LIVE!” and “Mama Honey’s Drag Brunch,” as well as many private events.
ROSS MURRAY is the senior director of education and training at The GLAAD Media Institute, which provides activist, spokesperson and media engagement training and education for LGBTQ and allied community members and organizations desiring to deepen their media impact. Murray uses the best practices perfected by GLAAD to train a new generation of advocates in order to accelerate acceptance for LGBTQ people, as well as other marginalized communities. He specializes in the relationship between religion and LGBTQ people. He has written for and appeared on numerous media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera and The Washington Post.
BEN MYERS has worked as a reporter and government investigator in south Louisiana for exactly one decade. He is currently based in Lafayette, where he covers special topics in the Acadiana region for The Advocate. He previously reported on politics and government for The Times-Picayune.
SEALE PATERSON has been with the New Orleans Public Library for 20 years, and has managed the Hubbell branch in Algiers Point since 2006. She hosted New Orleans Public Library’s first ever Drag Queen Story Hour in 2017, and has held six story hours at her library since then, and has another scheduled for October. She also serves as the coordinator for many of the Drag Queen Story Hours held at various libraries and other locations across New Orleans.