Montana’s new law banning drag-reading events in public libraries on Friday caused a Native American transgender speaker to be canceled in a southwest Montana town.
The Butte-Silver Bow Public Library has canceled its First Friday spokesperson, Adria Jawort, on the recommendation of district attorneys, library director Stef Johnson said in a statement on the library’s website.
On Monday, Jawort posted online that she would be giving a talk on LGBTQ and Two Spirit history at a library on Friday. “Two-Spirit” is a Native American term for people with both male and female spirits.
The speech could be illegal in Montana “as an extravagantly dressed trans woman,” she wrote. On Thursday, she said her tweet was intended to mock the law banning drag-reading events in public schools and libraries. Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed it May 22 and it went into effect immediately.
According to the law, “drag queen” is defined as a performer who assumes a “flamboyant … female persona with glamorous or over-the-top costumes and makeup.” A “drag story hour” is defined as when a drag king or drag queen reads children’s books and engages in learning activities.
Jawort’s social media post said she would definitely have a book that would talk about sexuality and that minors could be present.
Someone filed a complaint through Facebook, District Attorney Eileen Joyce said. Joyce told NBC Montana that the county was “on the safe side” by canceling the event.
By law, a library would risk its public funding if it hosted such an event.
“Our commitment to promoting inclusivity and intellectual inquiry remains, but does not violate the law,” Johnson said in a statement.
Jawort described herself as a sort of fashionista, dressing professionally for events but definitely not in drag.
When the bill was debated in the Montana state legislature in February, Transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat, said the legislation would target transgender people.
House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, a Republican, stood up and said, “Mr. Mr. Chairman, this bill has nothing to do with the transgender community.”
Jawort also spoke out against the law.
“The irony is that I have testified against this bill and said it would target trans people, which of course includes me,” Jawort posted on social media Thursday. “You denied it. Now here I am, targeted.”
Jawort compared the cancellation of her speech at the library to Zephyr’s silence following her testimony against a bill banning underage transgender medical care and to Zephyr’s subsequent removal from the House of Representatives for participating in a protest over her silence.
“One of my best defenses against bigotry … is just to educate the public and give these speeches about the history of the two-spirit people,” which have long been recognized by Native American tribes, Jawort said.
Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive JP Gallagher on Thursday issued a proclamation to mark the start of Pride month and called on residents to support the visibility, dignity and equality of all people, including LGBTQ+ residents.