A display in the young adult section of the Hays Public Library recognizing June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month is attracting a bit of attention.
The display is not flamboyant. Stereotypes were consciously avoided. There are no rainbows, neon pink letters or even a hint of pastel. The white LGBT capital letters barely are visible on the white wall, although two strings of triangular pennants might catch oneís eye. The books below are themed, directed at teens coming to grips with their particular sexual orientation.
In a word, the presentation is understated. By design, the display serves its purpose without drawing undue attention.
Or so HPL staff likely thought.
While the titles are being checked out by younger patrons, a group of parents want the display moved. They claim not to object to the subject matter; merely the placement. As the childrenís area shares the same floor with young adults, staff and board members have been asked to move the books into the adult department as the content is of a sexual nature.
Understandably, the library has denied such requests. It is not in a position to censor content, serve one segment of the community at the expense of another, or do anything that restricts free access to materials. We fully endorse HPLís stance.
We also understand those opposed to the display. Understand, but not sympathize. Religious teachings likely guide these individuals to believe the entire LGBT community lives in sin. Freedom of religion allows such thoughts to be expressed, but once outside of the home or place of worship, there is no standing to impose upon others.
We would hope that some day, even those with deep religious conviction recognize physiological reality. Prenatal genital development does not always result in all-male or all-female. The variations in between are plentiful, leading to even more different paths on the road to self-actualization. The science is clear, even if in conflict with many a denominational perspective.
Societyís response to the LGBT community remains in evolution, although the revolution generally has succeeded. The general publicís current levels of acceptance are at historic highs, yet resistance remains. Just listen to the conversations surrounding a certain Olympic gold medalistís transformation. And recall it was mere months ago the governor of Kansas unilaterally rescinded an order that state workers could not be discriminated against, fired or harassed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The resistance also features an extremely ugly side. Homophobia and denial results in hate crimes being perpetrated. Anti-gay violence has left many dying horrible deaths or surviving horrific attacks. And young adults get their first taste of harassment before theyíve even had the chance to understand who they are. A 2013 national study of middle and high school students revealed 74 percent of LGBT students experiencing verbal harassment, 55 percent felt unsafe at school, and 30 percent had skipped school because of concerns for their safety.
These are the community members this exhibit is for. Not only does it recognize the struggle, the library ensures these real people have a safe, welcome environment to be themselves. That is to be commended.
We do not believe young kids are placed in harmís way with the display. Nothing about it appeals to the demographic. The letters L-G-B-T are meaningless to them grouped in this fashion.
But if parents remain concerned, they should follow other established library policy. Children 8 and younger are required to be supervised by a parent or caregiver. It is recommended such supervision extend to those 11 and younger. So, it should be easy to steer oneís charge wherever one intends.
The Hays Public Library should stand fast on this non-argument.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry
Editorial by Patrick Lowry