Online backlash against drag performers shocks community: ‘We still have a long way to go’
A New Plymouth drag performer said a torrent of directed abuse at a Rainbow Storytime event at the town’s Puke Ariki Library left her appalled.
Sunita Torrance and Daniel Lockett portray Coco and Erika in a show that encourages inclusivity and kindness.
On a New Plymouth District Council Facebook post promoting the Puke Ariki and Waitara library appearances, the pair were accused of indoctrinating children and recruiting for the Rainbow Community.
Torrance said it was unfair.
“It’s not about trying to create some kind of gay army or creating some kind of agenda.
“Some of these kids have two mothers, two fathers, they have a rainbow sibling or an uncle who is now an aunt.
“It’s just about realizing that there are people who are different and we should always be nice to them.”
But that’s not how some on the Facebook feed saw it.
“You don’t see that they are caring for our children so they can easily be manipulated. Our children are now learning to trust their abusers,” one commenter said.
While another commented along the same lines.
“Between the ages of 1 and 7, a child’s brain is at its most vulnerable…but of course you already know this…this is when children soak up all the information they see , it has everything to do with how they grow as a person, that’s why it’s so dangerous… I don’t care what you do, but keep the kids out of it.”
Torrance said she was a friend of the Rainbow community, but people made assumptions about who she was and what her motivation was.
“I mean, we’re not saying everyone has to be gay. I’m not gay, I’m actually a straight woman and that’s what people don’t seem to realize.”
She said the show, which included story readings, singing and dancing, was deliberately ambiguous and designed to suit a young audience.
“It’s about not judging a book by its cover, about accepting people for their religions, their cultures, their socio-economic status. It’s about being generally kind to one another.”
Torrance and Lockett had just returned from a Rainbow Storytime tour across the country and told people how inclusive Taranaki had become.
“So it was pretty awful to realize that actually it’s not that inclusive anymore, some of those comments were really terrible.”
She said the comments could be harmful to some people who read them.
“It’s about the kids reading this who thought maybe I could hang out in my community, and then they see this and, no, they don’t feel comfortable anymore.
“And that’s why we’re losing so many amazing talented people from our region to other big cities because of people like this. We have to stop that.”
In a statement, New Plymouth District Council said it welcomed healthy debate, but did not tolerate offensive comments on its Facebook page.
He said a Facebook post promoting the Rainbow storytelling event at Puke Ariki and Waitara libraries was posted on Friday and was monitored on Friday and Saturday, and throughout the weekend. .
“Saturday morning over 100 comments were made in about an hour, including offensive remarks, so the comments have been disabled and the offensive remarks removed and flagged,” the board said.
Several comments on the thread tagged the board and asked if he was moderating the comments.
And many like this were favorable:
“I love this NPDC, thank you for hosting these amazing humans.”
Others targeted those who made offensive remarks.
“I thought NP had progressed since we moved here, but the bigotry, intolerance and general small-mindedness of some of these comments make me think we still have a long way to go.”
Torrance said she generally preferred to engage with the show’s critics, but it was disappointing that comments weren’t closed sooner.
She said that for the first time in six years the show had toured the country, it had been targeted by protesters with incidents on the West Coast and in Northland.
A pink church in Greymouth named Gloria was painted in anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti and around 20 protesters picketed an event in Northland.
Puke Ariki’s show in New Plymouth went off without a hitch and Waitara’s show is scheduled for today.