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Pittsford won't charge $8,500 for drag story time hour security after all

Pittsford, New York along Erie Canal in Monroe County.
Pittsford, New York along Erie Canal in Monroe County.

Pittsford has reversed its position on charging a $8,500 security fee for a nonprofit to hold a story time event for children featuring drag performers at a town facility.

The fee has been at the center of a recent debate that began when the staff at the Pittsford Recreation Center said the nonprofit, Pittsford CommUNITY, would have to pay the fee to cover security costs at the Family Friendly Story Time event.

Organizers were dubious.

“The supervisor did not want this to happen, and they were looking for ways to force us out,” said Tharaha Thavakumar, the organization’s president.

She and others suspected that the story time hour featuring performers in drag was the latest event to be the target of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

But as the Democrat and Chronicle first reported Wednesday, the fee has since been waived.

That was following a letter written by higher-education professionals, a statement from the Human Rights Campaign, and then the clincher: a notice from the NYCLU stating that the fee is illegal censorship.

It was NYCLU’s letter that caused town Supervisor Bill Smith to remove the fee.

"Having to defend a controversial lawsuit easily could result in an expenditure of taxpayer funds far more burdensome than the costs involved in providing security,” Smith said in a statement.

Objections to the event centered on the drag component, saying it would sexualize a children’s event.

Pittsford CommUNITY board president Catherine Doyle said that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“They conflate someone reading a story in drag with a full-on drag show that's meant for adults,” she said.

Despite the fee being waived, Saturday’s Drag Story Hour still will be held at Book Culture Pittsford at 2 p.m., following through with alternate plans made before the change.

But the following Sunday, the Pittsford Recreation Center will be hosting a second drag story hour at 2 p.m., no fees required.

As for what attendees can expect? After an art project with the kids, Doyle says, “We're going to have some very kindly people dressed up in cute costumes with far better hair than I'll ever have, who are going to read them a story and help them think about themselves and their position in the world.”

Jasmin Singer (she/they) is WXXI's Weekend Edition host. She's also the author of "The VegNews Guide to Being a Fabulous Vegan" and "Always Too Much and Never Enough." She's the co-host of the "Our Hen House" podcast. After living in New York City for nearly 20 years, then trying out West Hollywood for size, Jasmin and her wife are climate refugees who found their way to Rochester.
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