The global Drag Story Hour group has closed the book on its Miami chapter.
The group made the announcement on social media Wednesday, citing “the physical safety of our storytellers." The couple who ran the chapter, drag queens Angel Elektra and Shay D’Pines, told Out SFL that they no longer feel safe in Florida and are moving back home to New York.
“It’s time to go. I tried. I tried,” Elektra said. “It’s become a little scary. Me and my husband live in this state alone. We don't have anybody here.”
Drag Story Hour has chapters in 45 states across the country, as well as chapters in Japan, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Drag queens volunteer for events and read to children, but in person and through virtual programming. However, with an anti-drag law being introduced in Florida (a federal judge has temporarily blocked it), Don’t Say Gay, bathroom bills, and other anti-LGBTQ legislation, drag queens have been targeted.
“It’s really changed society's view and the everyday experiences of our story hour, just living our lives,” explained Jonathan Hamilt, the executive director of Drag Story Hour. "It’s becoming increasingly harder with lots of hate and trolling online and in person. It’s just becoming not a safe space for us to be able to hold events anymore."
He added that the necessary safety precautions needed were “really out of our scope and capability.”
Elektra — who got their start performing in Cherry Grove and Fire Island in New York — founded the Miami chapter in October 2021 and mainly worked special events with the Perez Art Museum Miami as well as virtual readings. They were featured in the Human Rights Campaign’s virtual story hour for Banned Books Week in September 2022, and during Miami Beach Pride the couple was honored as a legacy couple.
However, Elektra shared that they were getting hateful emails, Facebook calls, direct messages, and people leaving comments on their personal page. A venue also canceled their booking for fear of the anti-drag laws.
“I’m not going to dress up in a leotard and in thigh high boots to entertain children,” they said. “As far as showing skin and doing provocative performances in front of children, absolutely not.”
Hamilt said that Drag Story Hour also had to close their Little Rock chapter in 2021 after legislation passed specifically targeting drag performances; the law was gutted earlier this year. The Nashville chapter is still going strong thanks to a judge ruling anti-drag legislation as unconstitutional.
“It’s sad and I think it kind of makes it seem like the right is winning or gaining space, but ultimately we will be back,” Hamilt said. “We're excited and happy to offer virtual events.”