A delivery woman carried a large box into the first-floor activity room at the West Tisbury library last Saturday. “I’m looking for a Ms. Reina Del Taco,” she said.
Reina Del Taco, who was sitting at the front of the room before a multigenerational crowd, stood up. “That’s me,” she said. “I’m Reina del Taco.”
The delivery woman handed Reina her package and turned to leave.
“Wait a minute!” said Reina. “You’re a woman, but you’re dressed in a delivery man’s clothing.”
“And?” asked the delivery woman.
“It’s just that I’ve never seen a delivery woman before.”
“You know, Reina,” said the delivery woman, “women can do the same jobs that men can do.”
The Island’s first Drag Queen storytime was filled with moments that challenged social norms and convention. The library asked in its invitation to the event, “Have you ever felt different from others? Do you feel like sometimes you are living on your own Island?” and Islanders answered with a resounding “Yes!” Nearly 30 children and their parents and grandparents, plus some teens and teachers, filled the room to hear the effusive Reina Del Taco read aloud. She had the younger audience members chiming in during stories that celebrate gender fluidity, love, family, and individuality. Opening sentences like “‘Let’s be married,’ said Worm to Worm,” had the adults laughing along, too.
Reina started with the tale of “Stella, Fairy of the Forest,” by Marie-Louise Gay. In it, Stella leads her human friend Sam through fields and a forest in search of other fairies, who have the power to be invisible like wind or music.
“Who here believes in fairies?” Reina asked the audience. Almost all the little hands shot up.
Next was “Worm Loves Worm,” by J.J. Austrian, which is about two genderless worms who decide to get married with a twist on the traditional wedding components: Worm wore a dress with a top hat, while Worm wore a tuxedo with a veil; there were brides bees and best beatles. Kids wiggled like worms in their chairs to demonstrate how Worm and Worm might dance at their wedding party.
Inside the package Reina received were the books “A Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell, which tells the story of two boy penguins who fall in love, hatch an abandoned egg, and raise a daughter together, and Todd Parr’s “The Family Book.” Reina held up quirky illustrations of small families, big families, clean and messy families, families with adopted members, and single- and LGBT-parent families for the audience to see.
“Sometimes my family doesn’t understand me, but that’s OK,” Reina told the audience. “It’s good that we have families.”
This year, Drag Queen storytime hours have been popping up in libraries in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco with the aim of introducing young children to queer role models. Saturday’s event was a first for both Martha’s Vineyard and Reina Del Taco.
“I was hoping for at least six or seven kids and was very surprised by the large turnout,” said Reina, who has experience teaching children art and theatre — but never in drag. “I was really amazed and honored that so many people showed up to see me.”
After younger audience members and their parents had left for the Ag Fair or to find more books, teenage members of the Genders and Sexualities Alliance and their faculty advisor, Britt Quell, approached Reina to discuss the possibility of holding educational events about queer culture for Island students.
Among the group was rising freshman at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, Max Dankert. Max began dressing in drag around age 10.
“Do you have a drag name?” Reina asked Max.
“I thought about ‘Penny Scillin,’ but then I thought, no, Max fits me,” Max said, and added, “Please do more events like this. It gets lonely.”
Reina, whose “boy name” is Tim McNerney, began dressing in drag in 2010 and moved to Martha’s Vineyard this June. When he isn’t in drag, Mr. McNerney can be seen behind the wheel of a UPS truck wearing the same outfit he lent to his friend, the delivery woman, during the story hour.
“Reina has received nothing but love and support during her appearances,” Mr. McNerney said. “When I’m dressed like a boy, which is most of the time, I feel comfortable being myself wherever I go. I feel like the Island is a great place where people from all walks of life can be themselves.”
For parents looking for more books to help expand their children’s ideas about identity and tradition, Reina suggests “The Reluctant Dragon” by Kenneth Grahame, the story of a dragon who would rather write poetry than give in to societal pressure to act the way dragons are typically meant to act. And, of course, keep an eye out for other Reina del Taco events at the Island’s libraries this fall.