A packed crowd of pudgy-faced kiddos accessorized in handmade rainbow-beaded bracelets and PFLAG identity pins waved rainbow flags high above their heads, beaming with pride as they danced to live music and listened to Storytime with Drag Queens in celebration of International Family Equality Day ( IFED ) at the Chicago Children's Museum ( CCM ) on May 6.
For the seventh year in a row, CCM hosted IFED, an official event of the Family Equality Council that recognizes all family structures and gender expressions while providing visibility and support to LGBTQ families. The event kicks off two months of playful programming at the museum dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ families.
"Chicago is the first city to have a children's museum feature drag queen programming, and to be part of the inaugural class of queens feels historic," said Nita Bevy ( Kyle Hadley ), a performer from the organization, Kiki Drag Queens who read the book The Tale of Two Mommies with style and flare unseen at most public library story time settings. Nita Bevy was joined by Tipsy Bubbles ( Andrew Antons ) whose nearly 2-foot high beehive fashioned with plump, fuzzy buzzing bees drew more attention from the young audience than the book Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, read by the drag queen.
Bevy reflected on what a drag queen storytime would have meant to his younger self, saying, "As a queer adult, it could have made a monumental impact. Drag queens play an important role in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality not just as entertainers, but also as ambassadors in the political movement. "We are so excited to be accessible to our community members of ALL ages. Drag is an art form typically found only in 21+ venues. To be able to bring it out of the bars and to somewhere like the Chicago Children's Museum is fun, not just for our diverse audience, but for us as well."
Bevy's experience working with CCM reminds the drag queen that equality is not complicated, saying, "Sometimes, it takes the youngest set of eyes and ears to prove how equality is so simple."
After the first story time Bevy read for CCM, the drag queen offered to meet and take photos with the audience. "Immediately a little child, maybe 2 years old, walked right up to me, looked me in the eye, and put his arms up for me to pick him up. It didn't matter that I was gay. It didn't matter that I was dressed in drag. All that mattered was that this big colorful clown took sometime to read him a story," she said.
On this occasion, a parent tried pulling a child away from storytime, but the child protestedand the parent reluctantly relented. The child ran to Tipsy Bubbles, held Bubbles' hand and sported a huge smile while the parent snapped a photo with a cellphone.
Toddler feet were stomping and tiny butts were wiggling during the museum's dance party portion of the day's celebration. Children's musician and early childhood master teacher Stacy Buehler provided the tunes. Accompanied by her 14-yearold daughter, Laken, Buehler sang original songs such as "Celebrate Love," written specifically for IFED to recognize the uniqueness and love in all family structures.
Visitors were also invited to add colorful ribbons to museum's main staircase, with the goal of turning it into a giant rainbow throughout May and June.
Local youth activists Chazzie Grosshandler, of the GenderCool Project, and Ava Santos-Volpe, of Ava's Change4Youth, volunteered for the Collect-a-Color rainbow scavenger hunt and helped kids make rainbow bracelets.
On hand to offer LGBTQ resources were PFLAG, Family Equality Council, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospitals of Chicago, and the GenderCool Project.
The make-up of the audience represented folks from diverse families and cultures. LGBTQ and allied families alike shared in the celebration. A 19-year-old queer-identified children's museum volunteer observed what their future might look like, saying, "Seeing families with their children, having fun in a public place, gave me hope about what might be in store for me someday. I didn't know it could be like this."
For information about ongoing programing, visit www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org/index.php/about/lgbtq-pride-events .