GILLETTE – A social media campaign targeting a transgender magician and comedian turned into threats that resulted in the cancellation of a pair of family shows scheduled this week for Campbell County Public Library branches in Gillette and Wright.
Magician and comedian Mikayla Oz and library staff were threatened and harassed to the point that performances were canceled for security reasons.
Oz, a 24-year-old woman from Des Moines, Iowa, is a transgender woman. His performances in Campbell County became the target of a group of residents who complained last week that the library is recognizing June as Pride Month.
Although initially willing to do her show, which she says is family-friendly and doesn’t have an LGBTQ message, Oz said she started receiving threats online and by phone. A threatening call from an unknown man led her to decide that it would not be safe for her or her children to continue the show.
“A gentleman said, ‘We don’t want you in this fucking town. You are not welcome here. And if you come here, there are going to be problems. And then I hung up, ”she said.
She also said she received an email from a Gillette resident on Monday night that said, “You are not welcome at Gillette.”
“It was then that I realized that for my safety and that of the children and library users, I did not want to put my safety and (the safety) of those around me at risk.” said Oz.
Library director Terri Lesley said her staff had also been threatened.
On Monday, a man unknown to library staff walked in and made threatening comments ahead of Wednesday’s scheduled performance.
“I don’t have the exact verbiage that was used, but it made the staff at the loan desk uncomfortable and worried,” Lesley said. “He walked in, made a statement and walked out, you know, ‘You should shut down the library; this is not safe here ‘type of statement.
Oz’s gender identity was not previously known to the library, nor anything it considers relevant, Lesley said.
“We don’t know the personal details of our artists,” Lesley said. “And we shouldn’t. This is not who we are here in America.
Additionally, Oz said the show was booked almost a year ago and nothing has ever been said about it being any different from his usual family performance. She also said the shows she was going to put on on Gillette and Wright had nothing to do with promoting LGBTQ or other lifestyles.
“I am an artist,” she said. “I have different types of shows and levels of shows. This was going to be my family show.”
That Oz’s self-identification wasn’t an issue in his hiring or on his show wasn’t believed by many online. A Facebook post by Cheryl Kucera Vomhof read: “Leave our children alone. Do not transfer our children! The message, released before the decision to cancel, called on residents to protest the shows.
Another Vomhof article said: “The key to stopping the tranny magic show at the Gillette Library is Commissioner Bob Maul.” She then gave her cell phone number and begged people to, “Call him today. It could happen in YOUR library.
Vomhof did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted via Facebook.
“In 2021, seeing this still happening really breaks my heart,” Oz said. “I thought we were way past that point. Seeing this happening in small communities really saddens me. “
Other Facebook posts, such as numerous posts from an account claiming to be “Bobby Laumer,” which sports a photo of Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones as a profile photo and gives no other information about it. identification or indication that the user is a Campbell County resident, posted multiple times in reference to Oz’s upcoming performance.
A lengthy post shared by Vomhof on his own Facebook page included a long list of inaccurate and false claims about Oz and his performance, including this show “sexualizing minors” and equating being transgender with pedophilia.
The user behind Laumer’s account posted a link in which the user said he spoke at the recent Campbell County Commissioners meeting last week, where many residents voiced their opposition to the library offering LGBTQ books and that the clip began recording at 2:48 p.m.
At this time stamp on the video of the meeting, no Bobby Laumer has been identified but rather a man by the name of Kevin Bennett, whose Facebook page has had many interactions with Laumer’s account.
The user claiming to be Laumer declined to comment on Oz’s posts or show cancellation when contacted via Facebook. Then the user blocked the News Record reporter who contacted him.
When asked if Bennett controls the Laumer account on Facebook, he neither confirmed nor denied that he controlled the account. He also declined to comment on the show’s cancellation, saying he didn’t feel like he could trust the media.
Many local residents also offered messages of support and encouragement to Oz and the library.
A series of protests came from the community at last week’s meeting of commissioners, ranging from calls for censorship to accusations the library pushed for a “queer agenda.”
Before receiving threats, Oz said she still plans to perform in Gillette and Wright.
“I’ve never had this exact thing before,” Oz said. “In my magic show, I never refer to myself as trans. My show is purely a family magic show. It was disheartening to hear that all of this was being used to spread something that wasn’t necessarily related to me.
In light of the threats and planned protests, Oz was the one to cancel the show, Lesley said.
“I want it to be very clear that the Campbell County Library has been exceptional with the way they treated me and how they responded to everything,” Oz said. “They did their best to make things work. “
She said that at first the complaints and harassment weren’t too serious. But it quickly became violent, personal and “scary”. She said she was labeled a pedophile and charged with caring for young children.
Lesley praised Oz’s demeanor and response to the incident.
“I can tell you that we have expressed our dismay and apologized for the things people say and the threats she received,” Lesley said. “She knows it and she let us know that she knew it wasn’t the staff and it wasn’t the whole community. She understands it and she was very kind about it. We have apologized on behalf of our community.
Lesley said many of those commenting on Facebook believed the library knew Oz was a transgender woman and that it was the library’s intention to bring in an artist for the express purpose of talking about transgender issues.
“This is absolutely not true,” Lesley said.
Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King expressed her disappointment at all the dusting.
“It was very disheartening to see that someone didn’t feel welcome in our community,” said Carter-King. “We believe everyone should feel welcome in our community. It was very disappointing. “
She reiterated that the city has adopted resolutions against discrimination and that it also recognizes Pride Month.
“We’re nice and we accept, and I think that’s not represented in what’s happened with the library,” Carter-King said.
Karin Ebertz, chair of the Gillette section of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), expressed her dismay at the latest development of the library. She had had to endure the coughs, comments and laughter from the crowd last week as she addressed the commissioners to say that she supported the library “for having the courage to disseminate this information and these books”.
“I am disheartened,” Ebertz said. “But there’s also a part of me that’s angry.”
The cancellation of the performance of Oz came not only after public outcry over LGBTQ books and censorship calls on Gillette, but also after it was revealed that a Cheyenne bar was selling homophobic t-shirts claiming that the Wyomingites had found a cure for AIDS by shooting homosexuals.
She is worried about these controversies that make Wyoming turn to foreigners.
“It makes the community intolerant,” Ebertz said. “Some companies may not want to move here because of what they read about these attitudes. I am very worried about this. We are better than that. This is not who we are.
“We plan to continue the remainder of our summer reading programs,” Lesley said. “They have been well attended to date and we expect the same result. We have received a lot of support. People who stop and say, “Hey, we’re supporting you; You guys are the best. ‘ I have received emails and phone calls. It’s definitely a lot more positive, personally for me and for the staff, than we expected, so it really helped us.
Lesley said the support from the community is helping her and the library staff through difficult times.
“We are going to stay strong,” she said. “We will move forward and continue our programs and continue to support democracy, inclusion and diversity. We are a community, and we are a library that serves its entire community.
When Oz was 4 years old, she said that the first magic show she had attended was in a public library, which places still hold a special place for her. After seeing this magician perform 20 years ago, she has consulted books on magic and has been practicing ever since.
“It kind of breaks my heart. This is what I do full time. Being an artist living with a pandemic, last year has been a difficult year for me, ”said Oz. “It’s been a very good year so far.
“It breaks my heart, especially when my show has absolutely nothing to do with my back story.”
Since the cancellation, Oz said she has asked residents of Campbell County to contact her to apologize and show the protesters are not speaking for the entire community.
In June, she said she had given more than 40 shows, with around 30 scheduled for July so far. Despite the unexpected backlash, she said she would not oppose a return to Campbell County under better circumstances.
“I would love to come back,” Oz said. “Maybe one day.”