Friday, November 06, 2020

#NYLA2020 : TERF Wars - Transphobia, libraries, and trans workers

Program Description: 

Several public libraries have played host to anti-trans speakers, despite community feedback and protests. Those libraries proceeded with events, citing freedom of speech. Trans people are dealing with a constant state of precariousness legally, socially, and in workplaces. How do we align library policies, ideals, the Library Bill of Rights, and our codes of conduct when it comes to speech attacking marginalized groups? How do we uphold freedom of speech without allowing it to be weaponized? What is our responsibility as information professionals to vulnerable members of our communities?

Program Speaker: 

  • Djaz Zulida, Brooklyn Public Library (they/them)

Dumpster fire with the text "breathe with me"
Brief notes

  • Zulida started with a short breathing meditation using the image on the right.
  • What is TERF? Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism
  • Why are TERFs using library spaces? 
    • Space is free/cheap.
    • We are community hubs.
    • Free advertising.
    • Library policies are value.
    • Neutrality and both-side-ism.
    • Free speech.
  • Noted three libraries that held TERF events and three that we able to avoid holding TERF events.
    • Megan Murphy is a person who is connected with several of these events.
  • A silver lining to the pandemic is no library programs, so TERFs cannot come in and use the library space.
  • How do we plug up the holes in our libraries to reduce vulnerability? How do we make sure our patrons are protected from hate-filled groups?
    • Codes of conduct
    • Meeting room policies
    • Union contracts
    • Can you go beyond state or ALA guidelines?
  • Use the time now, when you do not have this as an issue to review and revise your meeting room policy.  Be proactive. If it has been an issue in other libraries, it could be an issue in yours.
  • Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20
  • What does trans inclusion look like?
  • Inclusive restrooms - menstrual products in both gender restrooms, etc.
  • Inclusive language - for example, "parents and guardians" rather than "moms and dads"
  • Pronouns - normalize sharing pronouns
  • What does trans inclusion look like?
    • Beyond Pride Month
    • Beyond Drag Queen Storytime
    • Collection development
  • Trans & Queer Alternatives to Harry Potter - Brooklyn Public Library has lists of books
  • Be mindful of what is happening in your community outside of the library. How can you support trans community members non-library settings?
  • Book list on Goodreads
  • New York Transgender Advocacy Group
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine Transgender Resources


  • Do you have any examples with language we could use to refresh our policy? Look at LGBTQ and other organizations for examples. 
  • What do you suggest we could do to encourage a more inclusive environment but receiving pushback from staff and patrons?  Find allies who can help to advocate for this.
  • I use email signatures & put my pronouns on my Zoom profile, but I still often see patrons, presenters, and colleagues using the wrong ones for me. Is there a constructive way to emphasize these language shifts? Is there an ally who can help to advocate for you and take some of the weight off of you?
  • Does anyone have pronouns attached to patron accounts? Good question!  The information could go into the notes field. Would be interested in hearing from a library that is putting pronouns in the record. You would want patrons to be able to opt-in. 
  • Do ILS's allow for genders other than male/female or pronouns? Don't know.
  • I've heard different perspectives on the relationships libraries should have with Harry Potter due to the author's transphobia. I'd love to hear your thoughts on using Harry Potter in programming/taking up library space and if it can be appropriate. What do you think? Harry Potter is not the end-all or be-all. J.K. Rowling has taken toxic stance against trans people. Her impact does not stop with Harry Potter.  There are other ways of connecting with fantasy and wizardry without using Harry Potter.  Don't throw the books out, but on other works.  Some people will say to focus on the art rather than the artist, but it doesn't hurt to focus on other authors. Be creative.



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