I am a student at Pitzer College in the Los Angeles area in California. Here, I am editor-in-chief of my school’s official newspaper, and a politics and sociology major. Before that though, I lived for almost seven years in Hays and attended Hays High School. I frequented the Hays Public Library because it is a beneficial resource and just a pleasant place to hang out.
I’m writing in regards to the LGBT book display recently set up in the young adult department of Hays Public Library. The display simply exhibits books targeted toward LGBT identifying youth, and provides this oppressed minority with resources for understanding and navigating their identity, specifically their sexual orientation. It has been brought to my attention that this display has undergone some criticism, and that some citizens believe it should be taken down because it “forces sexuality on children.” However, there are multiple problems with this claim’s logic.
First, this display is not located in the children’s department. It is located in the young adult department, where patrons are typically 12 to 18. The literature in this department is geared toward students from sixth to 12th grades. When patrons reach the second floor of the library, there is a clear divide between the children’s department and the young adult department. This divide is intentional, and therefore material for more mature audiences is housed exclusively in the young adult department.
Second, the maturity of content in the books featured in this display pales in comparison to other books, music and movies located in the young adult department. I am not saying this content should be censored either, but I would like to point out other media featuring violence and sexuality exists without criticism in this department. Video games, books and music containing violence and sexuality are available for checkout. The only difference between this content and the LGBT display is these books feature sexuality in non-heteronormative narratives. I’d also like to point out young adults are going through puberty and are enrolled in sex-education courses in their public schools. They know about sex. So it seems this criticism is about more than sexuality, and likely related to the pervasive cloud of homophobia looming over the town of Hays.
I assume those opposed to this display believe it will corrupt their family values and the town’s religious, conservative norms. This logic stands perfectly in church, a private institution or a household. However, in a public library, this simply cannot be upheld. If this was taken to court, I guarantee the library has the right to display this content. This is a civil rights case waiting to happen. The American Civil Liberties Union lives and breathes because of cases like this.
Additionally, this display is helping the community significantly more than it is harming it. In schools, LGBT identifying students are not offered the same resources as heterosexual students. Although sex education is already quite limited in Kansas public high schools, it is even more limited for LGBT identifying students. When students are provided with sexual education, it is restricted to heteronormative narratives, leaving LGBT identifying students lacking the resources they require for safety, health and happiness. This system is already oppressive. To disallow these individuals access to this literature is bigoted to say the least.
So, as you might have inferred, my call to action is to let the display be. Let it be, and realize that although it might not directly benefit you, it directly benefits members of the community who are normally extremely deprived of resources.
former Hays resident
former Hays resident