Protestors covered both sides of the intersection in front of ZooMontana on Wednesday morning, speaking out against the "Drag Queen Story Hour" event taking place at the zoo.

I talked with folks on both sides of the debate, including a self identified transgender activist.

Credit Aaron Flint
Credit Aaron Flint
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Credit Aaron Flint
Credit Aaron Flint
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Credit Aaron Flint
Credit Aaron Flint
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As I chatted with one woman protesting against the drag queen story hour event, supporters drove by yelling obscenities at the peaceful protestors:

Debbie from Billings: It's really interesting that they're yelling obscenities and calling us haters, when all we want to do is really protect our children. Just as a grandma who has grandkids coming to the zoo, I just feel like they really don't need a drag queen reading them stories. I don't understand what a drag queen and their sexuality has to do with the zoo or with children- other than they have an agenda. And so it bothers me and I just felt like I want to stand up and do something about it.

Debbie also said she noticed a lot of vehicles with out of state plates driving in to the zoo for the event. After talking with Debbie, I walked through the parking lot and noticed vehicles from Illinois, Washington, a couple from Colorado, a couple from Florida, a few from Oregon, Texas, Kansas, and even a few Bozeman, Montana plates.

Jenna McKinney with the Montana Family Rights Alliance, who helped get the word out about the protest. She had this to say about the zoo shutting down any critics of the event as "haters" and not listening to the opposition from locals in the community:

McKinney: They're gonna lose business over this in the long run. Today might be a good day for them with all their out of state supporters, but you know in the long run they've hurt their community.

There were a couple of counter protestors outside the event as well. I spoke with a self-identified transgender activist named Avi about why it was ok to have an event like this focused on kids.

Avi: We came out to kind of go against this idea that drag queens and the LGBT community are pedophiles, when we're not. I'm trans, my friend I have here is gay, and we've grown up with this constant voice in our ear saying that we're bad or that we're destroying the world, or that we're mistakes. And things like that is what causes this. It's what causes this hatred. It's what causes this misunderstanding of what our culture is, and we felt the need to come out and voice our opinion that that's not what our culture is. Our culture has nothing to do with hurting children. It has to do with letting children know they have a choice to be who they are.

 

Credit Aaron Flint
Credit Aaron Flint
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And why the zoo? Why kids?

I think it's important because I remember growing up and the first time I saw a transgender woman, it was the first time that I realized that I could be what I wanted to be, I could be how I felt. And that helped a lot in me transitioning and something like going to a drag show, or to a drag reading, when it's age appropriate, which they can be, is important for kids to realize- 'Oh, I'm a boy, but I can wear a dress, or I'm a girl and I can do guy things, or I don't really feel like either of those labels. And that's okay.

Many of the people I spoke with at the protest said they have family, friends, and colleagues who are LGBT. They say this isn't about hate, it is about protecting kids from sexualized content.

KTVQ-TV has video of the event on their Facebook page. Here is video from the event posted by the Billings Gazette: