A beautiful new children's book brought a community together on Saturday, Feb. 6 after its first public reading became the subject of a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church.
Square Zair Pair is a queer kids book by writer Jase Peeples that aims to expand the way kids think about romantic partnerships and relationships. The book follows a community of individuals called the Zairs who are neither male nor female. The Zairs do everything in pairs -- always one round paired with one square. One day when two square Zairs develop a bond against community expectations and guidelines, they must deal with rejection from the other Zairs before their community eventually recognizes how diversity actually makes them stronger.
When the Westboro Baptist Church caught wind that the book was hitting stores this month, they took to social media to voice their disdain and threatened to protest Peeples' reading at Books Inc. in San Francisco. In fact, in the days leading up to the reading Westboro even took illustrations from Square Zair Pair and superimposed their hate mongering signs into the hands of the characters.
When the local San Francisco community heard of Westboro's threats to protest the reading, hundreds -- including local drag sensation Sister Roma -- turned out to form a counter-protest. Westboro ended up being no-shows, but the display of community, love and support that their threats galvanized ended up having much a much more wide-reaching impact than the threats themselves.
"It was an incredible moment to share the story with everyone who came out to support and take a stand against Westboro," Peeples told The Huffington Post. "I couldn't have asked for a more supportive environment and was reminded how powerful our community can be when we come together. It really was a morning where love won, and hate was nowhere to be found."
The counter-protest spoke to the book's themes. As Peeples told HuffPost, "I wanted to create a story that highlighted the ridiculousness of prejudices we all hold against those who are different from ourselves and how much better life can be when we embrace our differences."
Maybe one day Westboro will come to recognize the value and strength of diversity too -- but we aren't holding our breath.
Want your own copy of Square Zair Pair? Head here to check it out.
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