Image from Twitter.
Among this week’s viral Long Beach controversies, Satanism has apparently infiltrated the sacred institution that is our Long Beach Public Library (LBPL) system, in the form of a drag queen, Xochi Mochi, reading children’s books during an educational event at the Michelle Obama branch called, appropriately, “Drag Queen Story Hour.”
As reported by CBSLA, republican candidate for the 43rd Congressional District, Omar Navarro, was one of the many conservative figures on social media who commented negatively in response to the library’s Tweet of a photo of Xochi Mochi reading out loud during Drag Queen Story Hour on Saturday, writing, “What are we teaching kids in school? Demonic teachings alive in Long Beach. I’m outraged they would allow this.”
What are we teaching kids in school? Demonic teachings alive in Long Beach. I’m outraged they would allow this. pic.twitter.com/Q72nhnWbBo
— Omar Navarro (@RealOmarNavarro) October 16, 2017
What Navarro describes as a “satanist ritual” and “definitely abuse” the city called a celebration of LGBTQ History Month, held in partnership with The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach and GSA Network at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library. It’s not a weekly event, as Navarro claims—at least not yet—and was the first time the North Long Beach library, or any other library within the LBPL system, has held Drag Queen Story Hour.
The story was also picked up by far-right conservative publications including Infowars, The Gateway Pundit and Twitter gadfly Mike Cernovich’s website.
The Drag Queen Story Hour concept, originally created by Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions, is also held regularly in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and around the world, according to the site.
It “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models,” the About section reads. “In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.”
The Story Hour was part of a day-long program also consisting of an LGBTQ history workshop. Library staff selected the stories—or what Navarro has labeled as “demonic teachings”—which “included positive and inspiring messages about being yourself,” Glenda Williams, director of library services, told the Post in an email.
Books read during the event included “Not All Princesses Dress in Pink” by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple and “Families, Families, Families!” by Suzanne Lang Max Lang, “It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr and “This Day in June” by Gayle E. Pitman; songs were sung and crafts were made.
“The kids were actively participating, smiling, and singing,” Williams said. “Families cheered and applauded when Xochi was introduced. The kids were engaged and laughing throughout. Many were interested in how her costume was made – not the appearance of it. Participants were moved in a positive way. Some kids came to the event dressed up in costume and had a great time.”
Navarro also describes the read-aloud as “very disturbing,” saying that “just the visuals of it are not very appealing to a young kid.”
“Xochi was showered in praise after the event,” Williams continued. “Families expressed their deepest thanks and appreciation to her for taking the time to show kids that it’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to be different, and that families come in all shapes and sizes. Parents afterward told Library Staff how much they loved the event and thought Xochi was a really fun reader. After the event, parents were bringing their kids up to take photos with Xochi.”
Navarro, who runs with far-right conservatives like former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has continued to garner attention on the matter through several inflammatory Periscope videos, including one described as “Breaking News: Going to the Demonic Long Beach Library with @annakhait” and an apparent interview with Telemundo outside the Michelle Obama library shared as “[email protected] intervening [sic] me in Spanish about the Satanic drag queen in Long Beach Public Library.”
“I think that was disgusting that they had the devil, you know the devil, preaching at the library. Look, I’m right here at Long Beach Library,” Navarro said, standing outside of the Michelle Obama branch on Tuesday. “This is where they had the satanist ritual.”
In multiple Periscope videos, Navarro and conservative online personality Anna Khait refer to the library as a school, claiming that educational institutions are “pushing god out of government” and “pushing a satanic agenda down our kids’ throats.”
The two seem appalled that Drag Queen Story Hour is a “weekly event,” though library officials confirmed it was the first time they’d held the event. The pair also recorded themselves walking into City Hall Tuesday in an attempt to speak to a city council member about the topic and were then referred by staff to the LBPL’s Facebook statement.
“The City’s social media posts on this subject were deleted because many responses were inappropriate and offensive,” Williams explained. “We welcome constructive dialogue, but there were too many disparaging remarks to keep the post up. I would like to note that there were also responses that were positive and supported the event.”
“We’re not being hateful toward the LGBTQ community, we’re pointing out the facts, they are endorsing, in agreeance with the church of satan,” Navarro said in one of the videos.
Hail Satan! https://t.co/ug7ut1qGWE
— The Church Of Satan (@ChurchofSatan) October 16, 2017
The Church of Satan Twitter account did in fact retweet a tweet from congressional candidate and self-professed Nationalist Grant J. Kidney which read “‘LGBT’, Satanic drag queens are teaching our children. No joke,” adding “Hail Satan!”
It’s important to note that the Church of Satan, founded by author Anton Szandor LaVey is, by its own definition, a rationalist and atheistic organization which does not believe in a literal Satan (or God), but rather uses “Satan” as a metaphor for living life freely and questioning authority. The LaVeyan satanist church has held a pro-LGBTQ rights stance since its inception in the 1960s.
Satanists are non-theistic by default. Satan is a symbol, a metaphor, for your own potential. Saying “Hail Satan” is like saying “Hail Me”.
— The Church Of Satan (@ChurchofSatan) August 9, 2017
“It’s one thing being LGBTQ if you do it in a private event that is totally fine, but if you do it in a public event with our children and public libraries that is not okay,” Khait said.
“We do not have a response directly to Mr. Navarro,” Williams said. “Again, the event was very positive and moving for many that were involved. We understand that being yourself isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Inspiring events like this, centered around books and storytime, help individuals understand that it is okay to be who you are, and there are people around them that care and will be supportive.”
Screenshot from Instagram (@xochi_mochi).
Xochi Mochi, the “devil” in drag who read to the parents and children in attendance seemed unperturbed by the hateful comments left on her Saturday, October 14 Instagram post which reads:
“I got to read to the children today and it was one of the best experiences I’ve been given as a drag queen. It’s so important to have representation and normalize all the letters in LGBTQIA+ in everyday lives. I saw so many excited faces it filled my heart with so much joy and hope to come back again soon! Thanks again to everybody who made this opportunity a reality and make such a successful LGBT event.”
The LGBTQ History Month event included age-appropriate programming for children and teenagers, collaborating with over a half dozen other local LGBTQ organizations to hold not only the Drag Queen Story Hour, but a picnic in Houghton Park that was attended by over 100 community members who gave positive feedback, said Porter Gilberg, executive director of The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach.
“Unfortunately, the message of inclusivity and acceptance which was shared that day did not reach those who have chosen to criticize events that they did not actually participate in,” Gilberg said in an email. “The Center is grateful to have worked with the incredible team at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library and Xochi Mochi who donated her time and talents to bring joy to the many children who attended the Story Hour.”
Gilberg also commended the LBPL system and staff for their commitment to continue hosting programming that “enriches the lives of Long Beach residents and creates opportunities for our community to celebrate our differences.”
“Long Beach is one of the most diverse and inclusive cities in the country, and the Library reflects that in the many different programs we conduct throughout the year,” Williams said. “The Drag Queen Story Hour was an important event in that it drove home a message to kids and their families that being yourself is okay, and that there are people and organizations in our community that support that mindset.”