ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Hundreds gathered outside a local library to protest a drag queen reading event.

One of Madison, Wisconsin’s famous drag queens was featured at Drag Queen Story Hour at the East Branch Library on Saturday.

Some called the event a learning experience, while others protested her appearance outside.

Cass Downing paid a visit to the library to read to children.

“I get really emotional because I think it’s a really great thing that they get to have this at any age that I didn’t have it and I needed it so much to know that I was okay being who I am,” Downing said.

She says she wants her visit to be a teachable moment.

“I think my life would have been a lot different at a younger age if I would have met somebody like myself,” Downing said.

“It’s really helpful to see someone who is similar to me and how she can connect with people who are just like me and make me feel more accepted and welcome and just lets me be me without getting judged, which is rare,” said Andy Schueler, 13-year-old drag queen performer.

With aspirations of performing drag shows like Cass, Andy says she taught him how to fully be himself.

“I can walk down the hall and I can list 30 comments I’ll get about me and none of it bothers me,” Schueler said. “I developed a very thick skin and that’s from Cass.”

“We were all born into a space and a place into this world and we deserve to own it and nobody can ever tell you ‘you don’t belong here’ because you do,” Downing said.

For the parents who brought their kids to the library, like Traci Kingery who’s mother is a lesbian, she says she wants to expand her daughter’s love for others.

“It just means a lot to be open and loving and accepting and not trying to discriminate and judge people,” Kingery said.

“Not everyone is the same in the world,” said Corisa Powell, Traci Kingery’s daughter.

The people outside painted a different picture. Protestors stood outside the East Branch Library holding signs, reading the bible and demanding Cass’ removal.

They say kids are too young for this.

“We stand for the biblical truth of who God created man and woman to be and that’s what we’re protecting is those rights for those children to make their own choices as an adult, just like they’ll have to make a choice as to whether they’ll accept Christ or not someday,” said Pastor Pamela Harding, Rockford Faith Center.

“I’m sorry that you have so much sadness in your life that you can’t see differences in people as being a positive thing and please work on spreading the love and positivity and keep going to church, learn what real love is about,” Downing said.

This was Cass’ third children’s story time. She says she’s open to doing more despite the pushback received.

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