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Students at Deering High School host drag queens to educate peers, support LGBTQ+ community

Protestors and counter-protestors gathered outside before drag queens talked about drag history with students during the optional after-school event.

PORTLAND, Maine — An event with drag queens at Deering High School in Portland is sparking debate. 

A handful of protestors gathered outside the school Friday ahead of the event and were met with an even larger group of counter-protesters. 

"We celebrate when schools are doing things to celebrate diversity," Gia Drew, executive director of EqualityMaine, said.

That's why dozens of counterprotesters lined the streets in front of Deering High School waving flags and holding signs.

Advocates like Drew said they were showing support for students hosting two drag queens that spoke at an optional lesson after school about the "history of drag and queer joy." 

"We want all kids to feel safe when they come to school and programs here at Deering do just that," Drew added. 

However, supporters were met with criticism from others. 

"It doesn't belong in schools," Nick Blanchard, who was protesting the event, said. Blanchard is a vocal right-wing activist who said he attended the January 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol. 

"For young people to see that there are queer people in their own community and they're being themselves, I think that can be really inspiring," Chartreuse Money, one of the drag queens who spoke at the high school, said.

Money said she didn't show up in drag and the event was not a show. Instead, she talked to students about the history of drag queens from the 1800s all the way to the present day. 

"It went over so well," Money explained. "I think it's important to know that drag and queer people specifically have always been here."

NEWS CENTER Maine asked to speak with the students who organized the event. However, they didn't want to go on camera as they feared for their safety over criticism of the event. 

A statement from one student read, "It is deeply upsetting that this student-initiated event got so much hate from adults, mostly with no affiliation to the Portland community. I am grateful to live in a district that really supports their LGBTQ students, and didn't just back out. In the wake of the mass anti-trans and anti-drag legislation, it is important for members of the LGBTQ community, especially youth, to connect to their community and learn about their history. The backlash on social media just heightens the importance of having events like these."

A statement from the Portland school district's interim co-superintendents can be found here

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