26 Apr 2024

'Most horrific threats' - Rainbow storytime tour cancellation draws outrage

8:14 pm on 26 April 2024
Erika & CoCo Flash have been hosting rainbow storytimes around the country.

Library events by drag performers Erika and CoCo Flash turned into flashpoints for protests by Destiny Church. Photo: Supplied / GiveALittle

Members of the rainbow community say they are heartbroken but not surprised at the cancellation of a tour where drag performers read stories to children in libraries.

The organisers of a national Rainbow Storytime tour decided to pull the plug this week due to threats of violence and having their home addresses posted online.

The move comes after protests by Destiny Church forced the cancellation of several events in Hastings and Rotorua due to safety concerns, and the storytime organisers are now planning to take Destiny Church to court.

The storytime events in the North Island last month by drag performers Erika and CoCo Flash turned into flashpoints for protests by Destiny Church, with rainbow streets crossing being vandalised with white paint.

Sunita Torrance - aka CoCo - told RNZ they received death threats and had now canned their new nationwide tour planned for September.

Another drag performer, who RNZ agreed not to name, said they did not believe anti-rainbow campaigns were more common, but those behind them were feeling more comfortable with being vocal.

The performer, who has run Rainbow Storytimes at their own local library, said the tour's cancellation was "extremely upsetting and extremely disappointing".

They said the storytime sessions aimed to be entertaining for everyone, while helping any children who might eventually discover they are rainbow feel safe and loved.

The disinformation being spread about drag performers was "really disheartening", the performer added.

Hastings District Council cancelled its rainbow storytime events in late March after councillors and staff received "a large number" of threatening and intimidating messages.

Councillor Wendy Schollum said she was "incredibly heartbroken" Coco and Erika had been forced to cancel their entire tour, but was not surprised.

"Even in the small way that I've spoken out in support of these events because I've been to them before, I've received the most horrific threats, and so I can only imagine what they are going through."

Rainbow community advocate Shaneel Lal said it was a shame that queer folk had to cancel something to keep both themselves and their communities safe.

"I do not understand why religious extremists are allowed to threaten queer people to an extent that we have to cancel our events but if we showed up to churches every Sunday and demanded with violence and disruption that they shut down it would not be tolerated."

Lal said that Destiny Church's rhetoric was "bulls***" and that if they wanted to protect children they were hypocritical, in light of the number of church leaders prosecuted in recent years for abusing children.

"Zero drag queens in New Zealand have been convicted for this... Instead of worrying about children they should protest outside churches and leave the road crossings alone."

Torrance said Rainbow Storytime was proceeding with plans to take Destiny Church to court.

A GiveALittle page set up in late March to raise funds for the court case has so far raised nearly $30,000.

Torrance said the support shown by donors was "awesome".

Destiny Church declined RNZ's request for comment.

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