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Reading rainbow: Youngsters fill Greenpoint church for Drag Queen Story Hour • Brooklyn Paper

Reading rainbow: Youngsters fill Greenpoint church for Drag Queen Story Hour

Mistress of ceremonies: Drag queen Rev. Yolanda read to youngsters at Greenpoint’s Park Church Co-op on Sunday.
Photo by Taylor Balkom

This queen got kids in the learning spirit!

A local drag queen took to the altar of a Greenpoint church on Sunday to read stories to a crowd of youngsters, defying gender and religious norms to remind the kids that they can be anything they want when they grow up.

“I think our current state of politics has sparked a huge interest in raising a generation that is not prejudiced,” said Rev. Yolanda, who identifies as transgender and lives in Bay Ridge. “Because of the fundamentalist attitude around the country and world, people are saying ‘No, we embrace diversity.’ ”

Rev. Yolanda, who leads a non-traditional interfaith congregation in the outer borough of Manhattan, expanded the young minds in attendance by reading from stereotype-breaking books that included “It’s Okay to Be Different” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

The storytelling session at the Lutheran Park Church Co-op on Russell Street between Nassau and Driggs avenues was part of a national initiative uniting queens and kids called Drag Queen Story Hour, which swept the borough as early as 2016 when another performer read to kids at a Fort Greene bookstore.

Tots have long been taught the fundamental benefits of reading, but learning from a drag queen helps them master the skill as well as the art of kindness, Rev. Yolanda said.

“Anybody can read books to children, but with drag queens doing it, the kids will grow up with a different kind of mindset when it comes to demonizing people,” she said.

And the session didn’t just inspire the tykes in attendance — parents who watched the mistress of ceremonies engage their youngsters learned something from her, too, she said.

“It’s usually the parents that have questions,” said Rev. Yolanda. “The kids are usually just laughing and having fun.”

The event gave one Greenpoint tot an opportunity to come face-to-face with a queer role model who doesn’t conform to traditional gender constructs — an important introduction in a world that seems to grow more prejudiced by the day, according to her mom, who did not want to give her last name.

“I want her to start learning early that gender is fluid and there are all kinds of different, wonderful people in the world,” Devon said about her 5-year-old daughter, Robin. “And to grow up with very positive, queer-friendly feelings, knowing that she can wear whatever she wants, and be whoever she wants, when she grows up.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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