The magician Mikayla Oz was scheduled to put on her first show in Wyoming on Wednesday. She booked six shows for children and teenagers at the Campbell County Public Library in Gillette about a year ago, she said, and looked forward to bringing her family-friendly show about the magic of reading to the state.
Then, last week, the library received calls and emails and noticed social media posts protesting Oz’s shows after community members found out she was transgender.
The library directors didn’t know Oz was transgender when they booked her – and, said youth services director Darcy Acord, it didn’t matter.
On Saturday, the Iowa-based mage told the library that she still wanted to go through the show. But on Tuesday, after both Oz and the library received multiple threats from parishioners, Oz decided that it would not be safe for them or the children to hold the performance.
“They said, ‘You better not come to our town,” Oz said of a call she received Monday night. ‘If you do that, there will be problems.’ “
She also received an email with a similar message: “You are not welcome to Gillette.”
Also on Monday, the library director, Terri Lesley, said a man came into the library and told staff to close on Wednesday when the first shows were scheduled and that it would not be safe there.
On Wednesday, Acord said several families who hadn’t heard the shows were still showing up at the library in hopes of seeing some magic.
But there was also another group of about a dozen people protested outside the library on Wednesday. According to Acord, some wore shirts with the words âNo Transâ and signs with slogans like âDon’t trans our kidsâ.
Oz said she has never seen a backlash in her career for being transgender before last week. Most of the time it doesn’t even come up.
Lesley said the Campbell County Public Library had never seen anything like it there in its 25 years. When they published a blog post in late June highlighting books on queer topics for teenagers and posting it on Facebook, Lesley said they were trying to get the collection noticed as part of the library’s mission to provide a diverse educational opportunity for all.
“We’re a public library – we don’t tell anyone, ‘You should read this,'” said Acord. “We’re just saying, here are the resources we have if you choose to read them.”
The contribution came during Pride Month, which has been celebrated as Rainbow Book Month by libraries in the United States since 2015.
Wyoming Public Radio reported that during a Campbell County Commissioner meeting last week, local residents criticized the library for driving a political agenda and unjustifiably favoring certain groups by promoting the collection.
During more than an hour of public commentary last Tuesday, the commission heard concerns that the books were inappropriate for young people and confused them about their own identities and sexuality.
Shortly after that meeting, Acord said, some members of the community found a Youtube video in which Oz talks about their transition.
At least one person posted about Oz on Facebook, equating transgender people with pedophiles, berating Oz, and claiming their show taught kids how to be trans. One post said there would be “an answer” outside of the shows and encouraged people to reach out to the district officials with their concerns.
“It just broke my heart,” said Oz. “It’s just sad to me that a small percent who want to be very loud and loud and angry about it ruined it for everyone.”
Oz’s own career started doing a magic show in a library when she was 4 years old. After the show, she and her mother checked out a stack of magic books that taught her her first tricks.
Their shows include making things appear, disappear, or float – the crowd favorite is usually a bird called Bubbles, who reappears throughout the show. When she performs in libraries, which she often does, the show also encourages kids to discover the magic of books and take advantage of their local libraries.
What the show doesn’t include is an indication of their gender, transition, or really something about them.
“For many children, the free summer reading programs and performers are one of the few opportunities they have for this diverse cultural and educational experience,” said Acord. âMost of them don’t go to large urban areas. Many visitors are very much looking forward to it. “
Touring and wizarding is Oz’s full-time job. It performed in 43 libraries in June and has listed 36 libraries that month.
Since announcing her cancellation and the reasons for it, Oz said she was overwhelmed by positive comments. Hundreds of people in Gillette and the Wyoming area have sent friendly messages and made encouraging comments, she said, and the library has maintained its support all along.