Making my stand
Posted October 28, 2010on:
(This is cross-posted from The Gypsy Librarian)
“We’ve made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!” –Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, from the film Star Trek: First Contact.
I have been attentive to what has been going on with the recent suicides of gay youths due to bullying up to and including the incident of the bigoted school board member in Arkansas. I have written some things in response, but so far, I kept them in my personal journal. The more I listen and watch and ponder, the more difficult I find it to stay silent, to not stand up, to not say anything. So my three readers can consider this post the one where I draw the line because bullies and bigots come and think they can get away with their crimes and uncivilized behavior. Well, no more. Not if this librarian has anything to say about it, and I do have a thing or two to say. What follows are two small items I wrote earlier that I am ready to share.
From my personal journal, October 6, 2010:
I’ve been wanting to blog about the recent bullying and suicide stories, but I am not sure what approach to take. Jeff Jarvis, in discussing the tragedy at Rutgers University, summarized it well: “It is a story of human tragedy.” What we have here is not just an individual failure. We have a community failure from the parents of those bullies who very likely failed to instill good values like common decency to a society that pretty much is willing to accept bullying. That we had more than one suicide due to bullies in less than a month was probably enough for the media to cover it. But if it had been just one suicide in some small town, no one else would have heard about it, and people in that small town, with the exception of the victim’s relatives, would have likely chalked it up to “boys will be boys” or some similar line. A line such as “kids in school will always be kids” should never be an acceptable cover or excuse for bullying, hazing, harassment, or other kind of anti-social behavior. That adults consistently use that excuse reflects a serious lack of character and compassion.
But there is another reason I find it difficult to blog about it. It means making my views more public in a fairly hostile environment. But if I don’t stand up and speak, then who will? For me, this is the right thing to do, and yet I have my fears. As a librarian, I struggle with the illusion many in the profession hold of neutrality against the belief that we should help educate, that we should not only provide information but use our best professional judgment in providing good, accurate, and reliable information. Taking a stand breaks that illusion. It raises a flag stating that this is what I stand for and what I will defend or oppose. Yet, if I remain silent, it would not be right. I don’t think anyone said this profession would be without some risk. Then again, every time I blog, or even post a shared link online, there is the risk of offending somebody, somewhere, maybe even a future potential employer. A lot of librarianship is about image, and it is a pretty small profession where the wrong blog post can get you shunned. I try not to let it bother me. I try not to self-censor more than is necessary. But I am finding it harder and harder to stay silent. The truth needs to be spoken. We have to take a stand for what is right. In my case, writing and blogging are my ways to do so.
Today is National Coming Out Day. I think it has a special significance this year given the series of LGBT youth suicides due to bullying. As Jeff Jarvis said in a post I read a few days back, those deaths are a human tragedy.
What I am thinking about today is the bravery of those LGBT folks who do choose to come out, whether today or any other day. Maybe that is just what moves me to be an ally. Maybe it’s that I think everybody should be able to love whomever they like and not be discriminated against on that basis. That civil rights should be rights for all, not just for some. That if you choose to live in a committed relationship of marriage, the gender of those involved should not be an issue for receiving the rights and responsibilities of marriage.
But what does it have to do with me? I am a straight male (at least I was last time I looked, haha!), so one would think I have nothing to gain or lose. In fact, I may have more to lose–from folks suddenly thinking I may be gay to workplace concerns; East Texas is not a particularly friendly place if you do not fall within its norms and parameters. I do it because it is the right thing to do. I do it because I look forward to the day where coming out won’t matter because it will not be an issue. Just like I hope for a day when no one is judged by race, handicap, so on, I look to the day no one is judged by their sexual orientation. I don’t think I will live to see that day given how much work and education this nation needs before it truly embraces diversity. But I hope that some day, maybe in the days of my daughter’s grandchildren, they will look back at our society and say things like “what the fuck were they thinking?” or “discriminating because someone is gay? How quaint.” Maybe some day, and I hope that day arrives sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, coming out (as an ally) is the small part I can do to bring about better days. It is my small way of saying to those in the LGBT community and the rest of the allies that they are not alone. It is my way of saying that as a librarian my skills and knowledge are at the community’s disposal, and if I can’t find a resource, I know someone who does know. I am here for those who may need a supportive person.
Do I want to be “that” librarian? I sure do. It’s the decent thing to do, and I cannot do anything less. And if certain coworkers don’t like it, then let them stew in their bigotry. They will either see the error of their ways and do the right thing, or history will simply pass them over.
I thought I could remain silent, but I can’t. Not anymore. I am coming out, and I am letting others know.
- Emily Lloyd, on “Being Visibly Queer-Friendly: Please Consider It.“
- Jen McCreight introducing and commenting on the “It Gets Better Project.”
- And because I am a librarian, I feel that I should provide some books to help out. So here is a list of “10 LGBT Books for Teens That Tackle Suicide and Bullying.” Via Lambda Literary. We probably should acquire one or all for our library, but between the tight budget and, well, the usual barriers, I am not sure it will be possible (at the moment).
Update Note: (11/1/10): Wayne Bivens-Tatum, the Academic Librarian, picked up on this post, and he wrote a very detailed, thoughtful, and reasoned response on librarians and our neutral (or not) stances. It is worth reading it in its entirety.