After a Christian media personality tweeted out asking followers to call King County Libraries in response to their Teen Pride event, the event saw a line of people outside the door, hollering and holding signs along the stretch of sidewalk.
But they weren’t protesting. They were supporting the teens as they entered the library.
One teen, Ella, said when she first got there she thought the crowd was a line to get into the event.
Once she started to realize what folks on the sidewalk were doing, her and her friend walked passed them to get inside and received the same cheers as other teens entering the doors:
“We’re here to support you.”
Brad Yeager-Strong and Bill Strong were vocal as they held up a flag of “peace” right outside the library.
The supporters had a quick turnaround time to gather as many as they did. On Friday afternoon, June 21, Renton Patch had reported that a religious group wanted the library to cancel the event.
From there, folks on Twitter, Facebook and different organizations decided to spend their Saturday midday protecting the event from possible protesters, and offering the teens an easy way in.
Anne Slater heard about the event from the Patch article Friday night, and quickly decided to spread the word and attend. She’s part of Community and Labor Against Fascism, which is a Seattle-area coalition that organize against white supremacist groups when they gather, according to a flyer.
Slater said she had a few people from the group there.
When supporters realized no protesters were on the way, they decided to stay as a welcome train.
Negative attention started to draw on the event first when KIRO radio’s Dori Monson Show posted about the event Thursday, primarily concerned that the library would have a raffle for free chest binders. The next day, Monson interviewed a writer who studied binding that likened the act to gender mutilation. Then earlier this week, he talked to King County Library about their support for the event, and the teens who decided the activities.
Binders compress chest tissue, and are sometimes used by people in the transgender and gender non-conforming communities in order to help someone comfortably express their gender.
According to the Binding Health Project, conducted by Boston University public health and medical students in 2016, majority of participants self-reported some negative outcomes with wearing a binder like backaches, but they also found reducing the frequency of binding would reduce the risk of negative impacts. It also found that the practice was associated with significant improvements in the individual’s mood and mental health.
The Teen Pride event was also discovered and shared by “The Activist Mommy” Facebook and Twitter accounts, encouraging followers to call in and try to get the event cancelled.
Librarians at different locations in King County then received phone calls, mostly from out of state, King County Library System spokesperson Sarah Thomas said.
The post was sent to both Twitter and Facebook and contained an image that was in no way affiliated with the library or event, Thomas said.
The Teen Pride event stayed a positive celebration for the rest of the night, despite reports of two women videotaping parts of the event in protest at the event. Several eyewitnesses and the two women’s social media accounts have said that the women were asked to leave by police officers after refusing to go, when all parents were asked to leave the event at 5 p.m.
Renton Police Department did not have any reports of enforcement action taken of the described event, and stated in an email it was likely a “low-key” incident. Later, police found the report of the event and sent it to the Reporter.
According to the report, Renton Library called police due to two women who were refusing to leave the meeting room, where an event was happening only for LGBTQ+ youth and their guardians. They were recording the event. The doors outside the library were also closed so it was now only event attendees in the building.
Both women were escorted out of the building, after refusing, with an officer holding each arm, according to the report. The officer told them they committed criminal trespass, although the library did not wish to press charges. They refused to identify themselves. They later told police they were “concerned about the transgender content of the event.”
Thomas said the regional Teen Voices program, which is privately funded, discussed and voted on this event. For months they developed this event with support from a teen library. She said they worked hard to create this and it is really the teens’ event.
“It was intended to be a self-positive, safe space for them to celebrate being who they are,” Thomas said.
Ella said she really enjoyed the event and thought it was well put together, enjoyed the drag performances and a coloring station, where she spent an hour just coloring in rainbows and flowers with crayons. And the young folks who won the binders seemed really happy, she said.
Police at the event said they did not expect protesters to the Teen Pride from what they’d seen online, but that they would likely attend the Fairwood Library Drag Storytime, which was Thursday, June 27.