Transgender Magician Cancels Wyoming Shows After Receiving Threats
An Iowa magician has cancelled a series of shows in Gillette, Wyoming after threats were made to her and to the staff of the Campbell County Public Library (where her shows were to be performed) after her transgender identity was shared on social media.
She fell in love with magic when she was 4 years old. Coincidentally, her first experience with magic came during a show that her local library had put on.
When Mikayla Oz saw her first magician, she was transfixed. She was a girl enchanted and she immediately started down a path that would lead her to her own career as a magician.
"I first started magic when I was like 4 years old," Oz told K2 News. "I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I actually got started by seeing a magician at a library. In that magic show that I saw, the magician encouraged kids to go check out the magic books [at the library] to kind of get started, and that's exactly what I did."
Oz began performing various tricks as a child, learning more about the craft and the, well, the magic behind the magic.
"My mom and I would read all of the magic books and I would kind of create my own little magic tricks and that's where the spark really started; when I was about four," she said. "And then, I've literally paid my way through college by doing magic shows and now it's what I'm able to do full time."
"Full time" includes appearances on 'Penn and Teller: Try This at Home,' the Travel Channel's 'Magic Caught on Camera,' and more. She's also been featured in USA Today, The Associated Press and the Huffington Post.
Oz said that she performs a variety of different types of shows; from birthday parties, to after-prom gigs, family shows, college shows, stand up sets, and more. She even does virtual magic shows which came in especially handy during the pandemic.
In fact, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that initially stalled Oz performing in Wyoming the first time.
"It was the year before the pandemic and I was doing a library showcase," she revealed. "I believe a couple people from the Wyoming community saw me perform and really liked what I did and they really wanted to hire me to do an event. Obviously, the pandemic happened last year and we couldn't make it work, but this year we were able to do it and that's kind of how I got in with the library in the first place."
Oz said that the shows she had prepared for the library in Gillette was completely kid-centric.
"I kind of do the whole spectrum, but what I was offering for the Gillette community was a complete family show," she said. "It was a hundred percent age-appropriate. It was supposed to be a fun, family-friendly show. I have a bird, his name is Bubbles. He usually appears and vanishes throughout the whole entire show. It was going to be a good time. I was supposed to do six shows and, unfortunately, that's not happening."
The Campbell County Public Library had booked Oz to perform during its 'Wild Wednesday' children's summer reading program on July 14 and 15. Shortly after her performances were announced, a Gillette citizen took issue with her gender identity.
A post shared by the Campbell County Public Library stated that, "With great regret, regret shared by Campbell County Public Library System, Oz canceled her programs in Gillette and Wright due to safety concerns for herself, library staff, and library patrons. Oz’ transgender identity was shared on a social media post made by a Gillette citizen. From there, misinformation about the performances was spread via social media and a call to protest the events was made by a group of citizens. The cancellation came after threats were made directly to Oz and to library staff."
Oz said that she had been made aware that the CCPL had shared a few posts about the LGBTQ+ community and let the community know they had a few books regarding the topic, for those who might be struggling with gender identity, sexuality, and more.
"The library called me and said that they ended up getting some backlash about that," Oz stated. "There was a county commissioner's meeting and they ended up getting a ton of backlash and they called me because my name was brought up."
She continued, stating that "Apparently, somebody was doing some research into all the events that were happening with the library and found out that I'm trans. So they called me to let me know that there might be protests. I was like, 'Okay, I've never had this happen before, but as long as the safety of myself and the community is okay, I'll still come and do the shows.'"
Oz said that the library itself had been incredibly encouraging and supportive throughout the ideal, and despite the potential for protests, she still wanted to perform.
"It wasn't until somebody called me and said 'Hey, is this Mikayla?' and I said yes and they said 'You're not welcome in our town and if you come here there's going to be issues,'" she revealed. "I said 'Well, can we talk about this?' and they hung up. And that freaked me out because I'm not a confrontational person.'"
The following images were sent to K2 News by Oz, including an email she had received via her website.
She got the email shortly after the phone call, and it was at that point she decided to cancel the shows.
"I ultimately decided that, due to my safety and the safety of others, it probably wasn't worth the risk," she said. "Even if it was just protests, I can't imagine the kids having to walk in through these angry adults yelling and holding up signs."
To Oz, that's the biggest regret of this whole situation. Children in Gillette are missing out on the opportunity to see what would have certainly been a magical show.
Her website states that she "doesn’t do your grandfathers old tricks, instead she is pushing boundaries and redefining what it means to be a magician. Mikayla Oz provides a high energy, interactive magic show with lots of audience participation, modern music, hilarious comedy. Mikayla even ties in an uplifting message, that will inspire you to be the best version of yourself."
Oz has certainly been challenged these past few days to be the best version of herself. What started out as a simple opportunity to perform her magic for children very quickly turned into an issue that she never had even considered, simply because she didn't need to. Mikayla Oz is a magician. She's a performer. She's an entertainer and she said that was all she was planning to do during these shows. She was going to entertain. Maybe she would have made these kids laugh. Maybe she would have enchanted them. Maybe she would have even inspired and instilled a love for magic in a child who would one day become a magician themselves.
She never got the opportunity to teach kids about magic but, because of this ordeal, she does have the opportunity to teach a different kind of lesson.
"For somebody out there who might be struggling with whatever it is, whether it's a gender identity thing or a sexual orientation, or anything like that, I think the biggest thing to know is that representation is important," she said. "Know who your allies are, know who you can talk to about whatever you're going through. It's important to listen and to have an open mind when having these discussions."
She knew she wanted to be a magician from the moment she saw one performing at her library. She knew that there was magic out there, in the great, big world. She knew it was right there in front of her, all around her. Magic was pulling a rabbit out of a hat; it was making an object disappear. It was pulling something out of nothing. Magic was making somebody see something that wasn't really there. There was magic in books, too. Entire worlds of it, just past the first page. But she saw that there was also magic in a smile, in a kind word, in acts of love. Mikayla Oz fell in love with magic and she spent most of her life trying to find it, trying to create it, trying to show it to other people.
She built an entire career out of it. But, after the events that transpired this week in Wyoming; after being threatened, after being berated, after having to read comment after comment telling her who and what she was and wasn't, it would have been easy for some of that magic to flicker out a little bit. It would have been easy for some of that magic to die.
It didn't, though.
She saw it through and she made the best decision she could to protect herself, as well as the Campbell County Public Library staff and, most of all, the children who would have attended the shows. And she did it all with a grace and a maturity and an understanding that proves just one thing. Oz spent her whole life searching for magic. It was in front of her, above her, all around her. But after this, maybe she realized that the magic, the real magic...well, maybe it was inside of her the whole time.