Mayo Bookstore Targeted After Hosting Drag Queen Story Hour

A Mayo bookstore that held a “Drag Queen Story Hour” for young readers as part of Mayo Pride celebrations in June received a barrage of hateful messages from “right-wing fascist online groups.”

The Tertulia Bookstore opened in Westport in 2019 as “an inclusive social space and eclectic bookstore” and has hosted storytelling sessions for Mayo Pride in 2021 and 2022.

The store faced abuse online after hosting its opening event last year, but that abuse escalated significantly after its final story hour on Saturday July 2nd.

Tertulia co-owner Neil Paul told the Irish Times that a message on messaging platform Telegram urged people to contact the store to complain about the event.

“Please contact this company to confirm that Irish parents will NO longer put up with this continued mental and sexual interaction with children!” the Telegram message said.

Paul told the Irish Times that shortly after the news was published, the store received a spate of calls, with a woman accusing it of “reading pornographic material to young children”.

He said the store has received more than 60 calls from people who read the Telegram message, adding that he is now letting the phone go to voicemail.

Others have posted insults on social media, attacking bookstore owners and comparing them to child abusers.

A group originally formed to oppose Covid-19 restrictions encouraged the “Men of Ireland please go to this show in Mayo and stop it” while a small group of protesters gathered outside the event gathered in front of the bookstore for story time.

We opened in 2019 as an inclusive social space and eclectic bookstore that has weathered a pandemic and economic downturn. We’re supporting the LGBT+ community by hosting a Mayo Pride story that we’ve been targeted for by online right-wing fascist groups. Thank you all for your support.

— TertuliaBooksWestport (@TertuliaBooks) June 26, 2022

“It’s a man dressed as a woman reading Peppa Pig for heaven’s sake,” Paul said, adding that children could only attend the event if accompanied by a parent.

Co-owner Brid Conroy said people had asked others to take a stand against a small business.

“Most disturbingly, they posted pictures of our bookstore on their channels, urging people to stand up to us. We are a small company. They pick on us because they can,” Conroy told the Irish Times.

Conroy said people had a right to protest, adding that the majority of those protesting the event were not from Westport.

“We’re getting amazing support on the ground,” Conroy said.

The small number of protesters who took pictures of customers entering the store were quickly outnumbered by a larger group of Pride-goers who came to the store to support the event.

Drag Queen Story Hours originated in San Francisco in 2015 to expose children to different forms of gender representation, according to Rachel Aimee, founder of the New York chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour.

Aimee said the events help kids “see beyond the blue-pink gender binary that kids often learn from as they grow up.”

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