Casten slams Pekau for bullying in Drag Queen Bingo controversy
The Downers Grove Library this week announced they would cancel a planned entertainment bingo night that was to include a “short drag queen” performance in the face of an onslaught of anonymous threats, bullying from rightwing politicians, and fear mongering on social media.
U.S. Congressman Sean Casten (IL-06) has released the following statement regarding the cancellation of the upcoming “Drag Queen Bingo” program at the Downers Grove Public Library, after Republican candidate Keith Pekau attacked the library for hosting the event.
Downers Grove Library had planned a bingo event in which a “short Drag Queen” performance would be held afterwards. The inclusion of the “drag queen” performance ignited a firestorm of homophobic attacks by Republicans seeking to rally voters going into the November 8, 2022 elections in Illinois.
Downers Grove library officials had defended the event saying that it would “help everyone see people who are different being accepted and celebrated.”
But after several rightwing politicians attacked the library and promoted homophobic fear mongering, the Downers Grove Library announced it would cancel the show.
“Unfortunately, in this case, it is not possible to provide a safe place for everyone due to the threats made,” a statement released by the Downer’s Grove Library explained. “To all of the teens who registered for our event and community members in support of the event: we are sorry drag queen bingo cannot happen at this time.”
Library officials said that the threats which forced the closing of the performance are being investigated by the Downers Grove police.
Leading the attacks against the library was Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau who is running for Congress as a Republican in the 6th District. In a letter to voters sent out on Sept. 7, 2022, Pekau blasted the library accusing them of using tax dollars to fund an “inappropriate” event.
“Some politicians have no problem seeing how extreme they can go. We see them do this in Washington with reckless spending and even on issues they have no business involving themselves in. But now we’re seeing this type of extremism on the local level,” Pekau said in his election eNewsletter.
“Take the Downers Grove Public Library for example. They are hosting a drag queen bingo for kids. They want to use your hard earned tax dollars to host an inappropriate, sexualized event for children! There has to be an end to their extreme agenda.”
Pekau then used the letter to ask his mailing list to make donations to his congressional campaign.
Casten, the Democratic candidate in the district who has represented most of that region for several terms before the district was redrawn last year, slammed Pekau, saying he should be ashamed of himself for weaponizing homophobic fear mongering and promoting an enviroment of “hatred, homophobia, and bigotry.”
“I’m incredibly disheartened to hear that the Downers Grove Public Library is canceling their upcoming event — one meant to celebrate self-identity and self-expression — because Keith Pekau and Awake Illinois created an unsafe environment in our community. They should be ashamed of themselves. They have used their platform to promote hatred, homophobia, and bigotry,” Casten said Monday.
“Let’s be clear. This event was canceled because, after my Republican opponent and his far-right allies at Awake Illinois publicly issued a call-to-action to their supporters, the library received severe threats that endangered our community.”
Many community activists criticized Pekau for using what has been an accepted form of entertainment and turning into a platform of hate, targeting the LGBTAQ community. Ironically, the straight community also has participated in “drag queen” events including during public activities such as Halloween without being bullied or shamed.
Pekau complained that he was being attacked by the mainstream news media and other community leaders, writing in his statement, “Local media is echoing the sentiments of the extreme politicians—the Daily Herald implied I am inciting violence, the Daily Southtown said I am being theatrical, John Williams on WGN questioned every response I gave him for why I’m standing up for our kids, and the Chicago Sun-Times paints MY outrage as part of the problem.”
Casten continued, “The 6th District is a place for kindness, love, and decency. Hate has no home here. The fact that Keith Pekau disagrees shows he has no place in public office.”
Here is the full letter from the Downers Grove Library:
September 12, 2022
To our Downers Grove Community,
For the safety of everyone involved, the difficult decision has been made to cancel the upcoming Drag Queen Bingo program due to threats made against the Downers Grove Public Library.
These threats are currently under active investigation by law enforcement. Providing an inclusive, welcoming, and safe space for everyone in the Downers Grove community is of the utmost importance to the library. We recognize the significance of offering services and programs like Drag Queen Bingo that provide a window to the world, as well as a mirror to it, creating opportunities for patrons to see the wonderfully diverse community in which we live.
Unfortunately, in this case, it is not possible to provide a safe place for everyone due to the threats made. To all of the teens who registered for our event and community members in support of this event: we are sorry Drag Queen Bingo cannot happen at this time.
We are determined to find additional ways to support you and your friends in safe, fun, and inclusive representation throughout the library. Hate did not win today. We stand by the event and Aurora Divine. We tried our best to make Drag Queen Bingo happen. However, due to the severity of the threats made against the library, we have been forced to cancel the event. It is our responsibility to keep you safe.
We are disappointed and saddened by the some of the vitriolic feedback that we received for what was meant to be an evening of fun and celebration of self-identity and self-expression. Thank you to everyone who has sent us messages of support; you have helped us reaffirm our commitment to essential inclusive programming in Downers Grove.
A special thanks to all those kind and generous folks who have stopped by to offer words of encouragement and thoughtful gestures. We appreciate you. There is no further information about this threat that may be shared with the public at this time and no further comment can be made. We ask the community to please show kindness in the days leading up to National Coming Out Day, October 11.
Sincerely, Julie Milavec
Library Director and The Downers Grove Public Library Staff
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