Serving Trans* Teens (Summer 2013)

In the summer 2013 issue of YALS, Talya Sokoll wrote about literature for trans* young adults. In this blog post, Talya covers ways in which libraries can reach out and serve trans* teens beyond putting books on the library’s shelves.

Much has happened in the nine months since I wrote the article for YALS, Representations of Trans* Youth in Young Adult Literature.

But still much progress needs to be made. Although many bills are currently up for passage in various states, they face a lot of opposition and passage is not guaranteed. Additionally, despite all of the positive news I see every day, I am still dismayed by the constant flow of hatred and anger directed at trans* people that I see on social media, especially Twitter, and in real life.

I will be honest here; this past June one of my dear friends, a transgender woman named Donna, who I have known since I was fifteen, took her own life. Her passing has made me incredibly sad, but also incredibly determined. In chatting with her prior to her death, she would often tell me of constant harassment on the street, online, and in many other spaces she accessed, leading her to feel unsafe wherever she went. This constant state of fear was overwhelming for her, as it must be for many trans* individuals. The people who perpetuate this hatred are learning it somewhere. If we can counteract this hatred in our libraries, even on a small scale, it can make a difference.

In my article, I argue that it is important for us, as librarians, to include material representing trans* youth in our libraries. My point being that it will help ensure that trans* youth do not feel so isolated and alone, and also help ensure that their cisgender peers will be exposed to their struggles, stories, and life experiences – which will hopefully educate them and make them more accepting.

But I realize now this is not enough. We cannot just provide this material in our collection and make it merely accessible. We must promote it. We must encourage its circulation, and we must make it obvious that our libraries possess these books; and in this transparency we will be saying to trans* teens: you matter, we see you, and we accept and celebrate you for who you are.

We can do this in a number of ways, but here are a few suggestions:

School Librarians

  • Reach out to the GSA, if there is one, and offer booktalks
  • Create positive displays in the library.
  • Include the stories of trans* people during research lessons. (For instance, during a unit on biography include famous trans* individuals).
  • If your school filters its Internet, insist that it does not restrict access to youth-orientated informational pages that deal with LGBT issues<./li>

Public Librarians

  • School visits (book talks for English or ELA classes, for the GSA, or both, making sure to include titles with trans* teens on the list, and leaving contact information behind).
  • Visit teen programs (local support groups for LGBT teens such as BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth).
  • Put flyers in places that teens hangout (Starbucks, McDonalds, etc.) inviting them to visit the library, specifically mentioning services for LGBT youth.
  • Create visible, cheerful, and positive displays.

For more information read my article in the Summer 2013 issue of YALS and check-out the booklist of trans* titles available on this site.

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