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Montana Library Cancels Transgender Native American Author’s Event Over Drag Ban

The speaker, Adria Jawort, is a Two Spirit author who planned to discuss trans and indigenous history at the event.

A Montana county library is blaming the state’s recently passed anti-drag ban to explain why it canceled a planned event this week for a Native American transgender speaker.

Drag performers are not necessarily transgender people. Nevertheless, the drag ban that became law in Montana earlier this month includes language that could be interpreted to affect both drag art and transgender people, an outcome that opponents of the proposal rightly predicted would happen in spite of assurances from transphobic lawmakers that it would not.

Adria Jawort, a Northern Cheyenne activist and journalist who describes herself as “Two-spirit” (a Native American term that refers to individuals with both male and female spirits), shared with her followers on Instagram that a planned discussion taking place at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library on Friday had been canceled.

According to the library itself, which hosts the regular First Friday speaker series that Jawort was supposed to be featured in, the cancellation came after someone sent a complaint to the county on Facebook messenger that Jawort was planning to dress “flamboyantly” during the event. After internal discussions with Silver Bow County Attorney Eileen Joyce, the decision was made to drop Jawort from the event, for fear of running afoul of the state law, which bans individuals from adopting “flamboyant … feminine persona with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup” at public performances where children could be present. Libraries or other publicly funded entities could risk losing funding from the state if they’re found in violation of the law.

Jawort, who is not a drag performer, said she is being targeted unfairly for giving a talk as a trans person.

“I am the 1st person targeted for Montana’s anti-drag law, and it was *for a history lecture* about Indigenous trans/2 Spirit people,” Jawort wrote on her Instagram post.

“We trans/LGBTQ activist had long pointed out how these anti-Drag laws could/would be used to target trans people, and people called us reactionary for it,” Jawort stated, adding that the cancellation of her event was a “very blatant cut and dry violation of my 1st Amendment rights,” which will “likely get challenged by me in courts” where she intends to “highlight how silly these anti-drag laws are and get them thrown out.”

Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Montana lawmaker who was punished by Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives earlier this year for rightly pointing out how anti-trans bills would likely harm transgender children in the state, also noted on Twitter how she and others had predicted the library’s actions.

“When I spoke about how this bill could be used to target trans people, Republican Leadership objected multiple times, stating that ‘the bill had nothing to do with the transgender community,'” Zephyr said on Twitter, further pointing out that Republicans’ emails had wrongly equated drag performers to transgender people at the time that the law was being debated.

“They know what the legislative intent of these bills are,” Zephyr added.

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