Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro’s crusade against a drag queen has me yearning for the old Rudy Giuliani.

Isgro, doing what he does best, went on Facebook over the weekend just long enough to light a fuse leading directly to the Drag Queen Story Hour, planned for June 1 at the Children’s Book Cellar on Waterville’s Main Street. The reading of a children’s book by a drag queen, followed by the crafting of crowns and wands, is all part of Central Maine Pride, a four-day festival endorsed unanimously last week by the Waterville City Council.

The uber-conservative Isgro hates the idea. He claimed over the weekend that it’s “trying to make us San Francisco.” Said it’s “scandalous to our little children and should be stopped.”

Suffice it to say, for reasons best left to the psychologists, the idea of men dressed as women clearly makes Hizzoner squirm.

That’s why someone should refer Isgro to Giuliani, who once upon a time dressed up as a woman and flirted coquettishly with none other than Donald Trump. That is, until Trump stuck his nose between “Rudia” Giuliani’s fake boobs and earned himself a slap in the face.

“You dirty boy!” exclaimed a horrified Rudia. “Donald, I thought you were a gentleman!”

I’m not making this up. You can watch it yourself on YouTube.

The video dates back to 2000, when Trump was a New York businessman and Giuliani was mayor of New York City. It was all part of the annual Mayor’s Inner Circle Press Roast, one of several occasions that Giuliani used “Rudia” to show, shall we say, his playful side.

Back to Isgro, whose idea of play goes like this: Find a hot-button issue, light a match and then sit back and enjoy the explosion. He did it last year when he went after a young survivor of the Parkland school shooting. Now he’s at it again, a political provocateur masquerading as a community leader.

“He is a provocateur,” agreed Ellen Richmond, who owns and operates the Children’s Book Cellar, in a telephone interview Wednesday. “One without any spine.”

The way Richmond sees it, her bookstore is collateral damage in Isgro’s never-ending culture war against immigrants, progressives, college students and anyone who identifies as anything other than happily heterosexual.

Richmond started planning her Drag Queen Story Hour months ago after she attended a national conference for children’s booksellers – bless them, every one – and witnessed a delightful presentation by two drag queens on what is fast becoming a national movement. As the Morning Sentinel’s Rachel Ohm reported this week, 14 states, Puerto Rico, Sweden and Japan now boast Drag Queen Story Hour chapters, which aim to introduce children to LGBTQ history and culture while they’re still open to the idea that not everyone comes from the same cookie cutter.

Richmond envisioned a fun, low-key event, much like those that have already been held without major controversy over the past year or so in Portland and Lewiston.

But that changed last week when Waterville’s seven councilors, conservatives included, all voted for a resolution proclaiming June 2 Central Maine Pride Day. In doing so, the council took an end run around the mayor, who had made it clear he wanted no part of this municipally sanctioned debauchery.

Isgro, miffed by the council’s snub, went looking for an easy target. And he found one in a longtime children’s bookseller whose only goal, as Richmond put it, is to help local kids “understand that some of their friends are going to have two mommies. And they may have an uncle who has a boyfriend. And that there are different lifestyles out there and everybody is good and everybody is worthy of respect.”

Isgro began with a posting on his own Facebook page, which Richmond said has since been taken down. That caught the interest of the Maine Conservative Grassroots page, where Isgro relit his fuse and waited for the big boom.

Now, right on cue, we have “An End to Child Indoctrination at the Cellar Bookstore,” a protest planned outside the bookstore on the day of the event. And to counter that, we have the “Support the Children’s Book Cellar, a welcoming place!” protest planned for the same time and place.

In an email late Wednesday evening, Isgro said he opposes the story hour and did say so on his private Facebook account, but “it is not my position as mayor to stop the event. My personal feelings remain, however, that this is inappropriate for small children.”

Right. Try telling that to his followers, who make no such distinction between his public and private personas when Isgro picks up his megaphone. And try telling it to Richmond, a longtime Waterville businesswoman who earlier in the day all but saw this coming.

“He talks a good game, and then he takes his post down off Facebook,” said Richmond. “He backs off and looks as pure as the driven snow.”

To be fair, the mayor isn’t the only one who can’t, or won’t, see that the Drag Queen Story Hour isn’t a thinly veiled effort to mess with young kids’ gender identities. Sprawled across the Facebook page for “An End to Child Indoctrination at the Cellar Bookstore” is a banner that reads, “Dear God: Let NOT the little children be perverted by Drag Queen story hours!”

But consider this little-known related development: The South Portland Public Library plans to hold a Drag Queen Story Hour of its own on June 1, the same day as the event in Waterville.

Say what? You hadn’t heard about that one?

Perhaps that’s because the mayor of South Portland isn’t flailing away at his keyboard calling it the scandal it so clearly isn’t.

Perhaps folks in South Portland understand that there’s nothing inherently “sexual” about a man in a dress, that witnessing such a thing could well benefit kids who might someday struggle with their own gender issues.

At the same time, South Portland might already see its story hour as a golden opportunity to show to kids across the gender spectrum that there’s room in this world for everyone, that homophobia is just a fancy word for fear of the unknown.

Isgro, in his last-minute email, called the idea of Drag Queen Story Hour “a direct challenge to the inherently natural understanding of the sexes that is built into our nature.”

Someone should tell that to Rudia Giuliani.


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