Don’t shush me: Is your library stocking LGBT books?
Hannah Murphy is on a mission to give LGBT books pride of place on our library shelves
Successful campaigns such as Stonewall’s Come Out For LGBT and Rainbow Laces have highlighted how important visibility is in tackling intolerance. However, it can be difficult for individuals to become involved in these campaigns and feel that they are making a difference. So here is my chance, to tackle some of the ignorance directed at the LGBT+ community, and attempt to neutralise the notion that we are the “other” or even that there is one way to be gay. Come on now, it’s 2018!
It all stems from a love of reading and how that was turning into a rather expensive hobby. That’s what happens when your interest is marginalised, excessively censored or sent off to that dark place labeled “other”. You’ve guessed it, that interest was lesbian fiction!
To help address my mounting book expenses, I marched into my local library on a hunt for LGBT+ books, where I came up against that familiar obstacle; under-representation. I managed to find two books and then much to my disappointment, I was told that the others had been “lost”. Two books in a forest of literature and I’m supposed to accept that? Well no, I don’t! I have had enough of being invisible!
Hannah's local library in Liverpool
Now, before your interest wains and you decide that this just isn’t your thing, I need to remind you of the positive impact that this small effort could have for the LGBT+ community – a community that has seen a 78% increase in hate crimes directed at them in the last year and a community which makes up 24% of all homelessness in the UK.
Increasing access to LGBT+ content in libraries does not only provide people with diverse and multi-generational role models, otherwise excluded from mainstream media. It also provides a safe place for people to explore their own feelings and educate themselves without fear or judgement. Whether this is people questioning their own sexuality/gender or guardians and educators trying to gain a better understanding, having free materials available and accessible is an invaluable asset to this community.
I am using my voice to correct this imbalance and it's working. As a direct result of communicating with my local library over the last three months, they have increased the number of LGBT+ books available by 18. So I would encourage you to do the same. I'm urging you to join me in contacting your local MPs, councillors, and libraries. Ask for more LGBT+ books to be made available and demonstrate to the people in power that there is a gap in their service and we demand and deserve to be fairly represented.
As Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and in a world where one in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (in the last 12 months), increasing LGBT+ representation within public libraries may just be the change that is needed.
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