Drag queen story hour in America’s Bible Belt

Drag queen story hours - events where drag performers read to children - are moving out of the big cities and coming to conservative southern US states.

A group of drag queens stand in a small room at the back of a public library in South Carolina, their bright outfits in contrast with the beige walls.

Children file in and quickly scan the larger-than-life characters before turning their attention to running around and playing.

“There are five drag queens walking around this room and not one kid has walked up to us and said ‘you’re so weird’,” says drag queen Rylee Hunty. “Kids exist in their own fantasy world and we fit into that.”

The children assemble on the floor in front of Rylee as she starts to read. After a page or so, she is interrupted by a young girl who stands up and offers Rylee her bracelet because she’s “a princess”.

Outside the library, armed police watch over groups of protesters and counter-protesters chanting at each other in the rain. Each side representing a different view of the future of the American South.

Drag Queen Story Hour was established in San Francisco in 2015, and has since spread across the US and around the world.

While the Greenville story hour is not officially linked to the organisation, it is part of a growing movement to bring these events to Middle America.

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