Love won this month at the Wilmette Public Library .
When a man interrupted performer and author Lindz Amer’s Rainbow Storytime on June 14 at the Wilmette Public Library, attendees drowned out his disapproval with joyful song, according to Amer and library officials.
Amer, who makes queer content for children primarily through their web series Queer Kid Stuff, began touring for their book “Rainbow Parenting: Your Guide to Raising Queer Kids and Their Allies” in May at schools and libraries where they sing, tell stories and talk about their book.
During the June 14 family performance, which was organized in collaboration with the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library, Amer said they told a story about a rainy day at the beach a few years ago during pride month that ended with clear skies and a rainbow.
At this point of the performance, Amer said a man in the audience threw back his head in disapproval and interjected the performance to opine on rainbows and heckle Amer. Prior to the man’s outburst, Amer had noticed him holding a sign chastising the event and Amer, but they ignored him until this point.
After the disruption, Amer continued to sing a medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Rainbow Connection,” and the families and library staff began to loudly and joyfully sing along, drowning out the ongoing commentary of the protestor.
“It’s just one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced as a performer,” they said. “I’ve been performing for a long time and I’ve been performing this set for a long time and I’ve really never experienced anything like that.”
In a social media post (TikTok) Amer created backstage after the incident, they noted that the children were mostly oblivious to the man’s comments.
Library Trustee Maria DiLorenzo, who was present at the event, said at a Library Board meeting on June 20 that despite the ignorance of the children, the tension was uncomfortable.
“I think at a children’s event it’s just a true shame that that element was brought into what should be a very celebratory, welcoming, inclusive event,” DiLorenzo said. “There was an introduction of a very hostile element, and that moment was very palpable to attendees.”
She said that Amer handled the man’s comments “magnificently” and seemed undeterred when they kept going.
Library Director Anthony Auston also expressed his disapproval of the incident during the meeting, saying that he planned to meet with the library staff over the coming week to talk more about LGBTQ+ programming. The library, he said, has “every intent to continue to offer the programs that are of interest to this community, obviously this being a topic as one of them.”
“You can come and you can express yourself and enjoy the programming or not, or be curious about the program,” Auston said, “but to disrespect the presenter and to create a disruptive environment for everyone that was attending is in conflict with our code of conduct and I think that is a key piece that we need to be looking at going forward.”
Auston said he does not want to restrict access to the library’s programs but that he needs to put himself in the shoes of the attendees of that program to understand how the children and families felt.
Amer said the library staff went “above and beyond” to make them feel comfortable and welcome before and after their performance, and that they seemed genuinely concerned for their safety and wellbeing during the disruption.
Amer said the incident was a “beautiful metaphor” for the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in the face of threats during pride month, including book bans, drag bans and anti-transgender legislation that is attempting to ban gender-affirming care.
Although Amer has faced hateful comments on the internet for what they have done since 2016, they said they had never experienced a moment like this.
“Despite it being around a moment of bigotry, essentially, there was a lot of really beautiful positivity around it and love,” they said. “For me, it’s important to focus on that part of it and what was really beautiful about that moment, rather than a guy holding a sign.”
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Rosie Newmark is a 2023 Record intern and an incoming senior studying journalism and history at Northwestern University. Rosie has written for multiple campus publications in addition to the Hyde Park Herald and American Libraries Magazine.