An event at Ramstein Air Base in Germany in which a drag queen was scheduled to read a book to children at the library this week was canceled after criticism from some service members, parents and a prominent Republican lawmaker.
A since-deleted Facebook post advertised a 30-minute event on June 2 at the on-base library, where drag queen Stacey Teed was scheduled to read to patrons.
"We're celebrating Pride Month at the Ramstein Library with Drag Queen Storytime!" a screenshot of the event page circulating online said. "Be sure to wear your brightest and most colorful outfits!"
But backlash to the event, particularly from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., led to the base canceling the event.
Rubio said last week that Ramstein canceled the event shortly after he wrote a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall complaining that the library's storytime was a waste of taxpayer money. He argued that many families stationed outside the continental U.S. -- often called OCONUS -- can't go to another library off base if they disagree with the local facility's policies.
"Frequently, servicemembers do not have options available outside OCONUS installations due to language and logistical barriers," Rubio wrote in a letter dated May 26. "In light of this, it is completely insane for Ramstein AFB to use on-installation resources for rituals like 'Drag Queen Story Time.'"
Rubio's letter regarding Ramstein's event comes amid larger GOP messaging, as well as state-level bills fighting against LGBTQ education.
Ramstein's public affairs officers did not immediately respond to Military.com on Tuesday prior to publication.
But Lt. Col. Will Powell, chief of public affairs for the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein, told other media outlets late last week that the poster for the storytime was published online before the base could approve the event.
Drag, a type of entertainment highlighted by people dressing in exaggerated clothing and styles of the opposite sex, can be traced back to Shakespearean-era theater when only men were allowed to perform on stage and often played the parts of women in costume.
In recent years, it has become a cultural staple and popular form of entertainment in the LGBTQ community, fostering mainstream acceptance and pride to wider audiences.
A Change.org petition online hoping to reinstate Ramstein's event, which had been signed by 375 people as of Tuesday, said the cancellation of the event came after a string of hateful comments filled the library's since-deleted event page following coverage from right-wing and conservative media outlets.
But the organizer of the petition wrote that canceling the event at a time when members of the LGBTQ community need support is unacceptable.
"It's storytime not RuPaul's Drag Race," the Change.org petion read, referring to a television show that centers on drag show competitions. "Now more then [sic] ever we need to show our support to our enlisted members and spouses in the face of blatant discrimination."
A similar event was held last year at the base's library, according to an event poster.
The advertisement said that on June 10, 2021, "Drag King Sauvage" read "The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish" -- a nursery rhyme book written by a founding member of the nationally recognized Drag Queen Story Hour.
Drag show-type events have happened at other military installations before. Last year, Nellis Air Force Base, which is located 14 miles northeast of Las Vegas, hosted a drag show at an on-base venue.
The event, dubbed "Drag-u-Nellis," was sponsored by a private organization and aimed to educate the public about the significance of the performance art form in the LGBTQ community.
"Ensuring our ranks reflect and are inclusive of the American people is essential to the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the military," a base spokesman told Yahoo News last year. "Nellis Air Force Base is committed to providing and championing an environment that is characterized by equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion."
June marks the start of Pride Month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan as a major chapter in America's gay liberation movement. It's unclear what other events Ramstein will hold on-base during the month.
"Ramstein leaders continue to support LGBTQ+ related events, and coordinators are currently in the process of planning other Pride events for June," Powell told other media outlets. "More details will be made available once final decisions have been made."
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.