NATIONAL NEWS

Library cancels trans speaker after Montana bans drag readings

Jun 1, 2023, 5:23 PM

FILE - Adrian Jawort, of Billings, Mont., speaks at the Rainbow Rally on the steps of the Montana S...

FILE - Adrian Jawort, of Billings, Mont., speaks at the Rainbow Rally on the steps of the Montana State Capitol on March 15, 2021, in Helena, Mont. Jawort, who changed her first name to Adria, had planned to talk about LGBTQ and two spirit history at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library on Friday, June 2, 2023, but the event was canceled due to a new law that bans drag reading events at public libraries. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Thom Bridge/Independent Record, File)

Montana’s new law banning drag reading events at public libraries has led to the cancellation of a Native American transgender speaker in a southwestern Montana city on Friday.

The Butte-Silver Bow Public Library canceled its “First Friday” speaker, Adria Jawort, at the recommendation of county attorneys, library director Stef Johnson said in a statement on the library’s website.

On Monday, Jawort posted online that she was going to do an LGBTQ and two-spirit history lecture at a library on Friday. “Two-spirit” is a Native American term for people with both male and female spirits.

The speech might be illegal in Montana “as a flamboyantly dressed trans woman,” she posted. On Thursday she said her Tweet was meant to mock the law that bans drag reading events at public schools and libraries. Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed it on May 22 and it took effect immediately.

Under the law, “drag queen” is defined as a performer who adopts a “flamboyant … feminine persona with glamorous or exaggerated 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 that she would definitely have a book, that sexuality would be discussed and minors might be present.

Someone submitted a complaint via Facebook, County Attorney Eileen Joyce said. Joyce told NBC Montana the county was “erring on the side of caution” in canceling the event.

Under the law, a library would risk its public funding if it held such an event.

“Our commitment to promoting inclusivity and intellectual exploration remains, but not in violation of law,” Johnson said in a statement.

Jawort described herself as somewhat of a fashionista who dresses professionally for events, but certainly not in drag.

When the bill was debated in the Montana 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. Chair, this bill has nothing to do with the transgender community.”

Jawort also spoke against the legislation.

“The irony is I testified against this bill saying it would target trans people that would include, of course, me,” Jawort posted on social media Thursday. “They denied it. Now here I am, targeted.”

Jawort likened her library speech being canceled to the silencing of Zephyr after her testimony against a bill to ban transgender medical care for minors and Zephyr’s later removal from the House floor for her participation in a protest over her silencing.

“One of my best defenses against bigotry … is just educating the public and doing these speeches about the history of two-spirit people,” who have long been recognized by Native American tribes, Jawort said.

Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher issued a proclamation Thursday marking the beginning of Pride month and encouraged residents to support the visibility, dignity and equality of all people, including LGBTQ+ residents.

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Library cancels trans speaker after Montana bans drag readings