Libraries Respond: Protecting and Supporting Transgender Staff and Patrons

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In recent years, the transgender community has been under attack and has been threatened with the violation of their human rights. From the 2016 bathroom bill to the 2020 reversal of transgender health protections from the Federal government, the trans community and allies have been tirelessly fighting against bigotry.

Libraries must actively affirm and support the safety and rights of transgender people.



Definitions

Transgender: "An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms - including transgender." ()

Gender Identity: "Our deeply held, internal sense of self as masculine, feminine, a blend of both, neither, or something else. Identity also includes the name we use to convey our gender. Gender identity can correspond to, or differ from the sex we are assigned at birth. The language a person uses to communicate their gender identity can evolve and shift over time, especially as someone gains access to a broader gender vocabulary." ()

Transition: “Transitioning is a term commonly used to refer to the steps a transgender, Agender, or non-binary person takes in order to find congruence in their gender. But this term can be misleading as it implies that the person’s gender identity is changing and that there is a moment in time when this takes place. More typically, it is others’ understanding of the person’s gender that shifts. What people see as a “transition” is actually an alignment in one or more dimensions of the individual’s gender as they seek congruence across those dimensions. A transition is taking place, but it is often other people (parents and other family members, support professionals, employers, etc.) who are transitioning in how they see the individual’s gender, and not the person themselves. For the person, these changes are often less of a transition and more of an evolution." ()

Gender Expression: "This is our “public” gender. How we present our gender in the world and how society, culture, community, and family perceive, interact with, and try to shape our gender. Gender expression is also related to gender roles and how society uses those roles to try to enforce conformity to current gender norms." ()

Non-Binary: "Most people – including most transgender people – are either male or female. But some people don't neatly fit into the categories of "man" or "woman," or “male” or “female.” For example, some people have a gender that blends elements of being a man or a woman, or a gender that is different than either male or female. Some people don't identify with any gender. Some people's gender changes over time.

People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female." ()

Creating the Trans-Inclusive Library: A Practice Guide

In addition to the suggestions below we encourage you to fully explore and contribute to this guide, developed by Brett D. Currier and Tessa White, which creates activities that librarians and their parent institutions can complete in order to create a more inclusive environment for trans students, employees, and patrons.

How to Protect and Support Staff

Ensure that HR allows language that is welcoming for transgender applicants. Questions on forms requesting that staff indicate gender should not include the term "other."

Normalize staff members introducing themselves with their pronouns.

Hold EDI trainings strategically. These trainings should not be in reaction to an incident and should not be one-offs.

Review library policies.

Host role-playing opportunities for staff to respond to inappropriate comments. The more practice there is, the better staff will be prepared to address questions and comments while properly representing the library.

Refrain from using gendered language (ladies and gentlemen, guys, mailman, etc.)

Consider gender-neutral bathrooms for staff as well as library conferences.

How to Protect and Support Patrons

Remove questions on library card applications that ask for gender.

Have clear signage regarding bathroom use.

Normalize using the pronoun “they” when speaking about patrons. Do not assume to know someone’s pronouns.

Partner with local trans community groups to provide resources and host programs.

Feature books with transgender main characters by transgender authors. These books should include books for all ages.

Pay attention to the needs of additionally vulnerable populations.

Additional Organizations to Explore

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Many thanks to ALA's for their feedback in creating this resource.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, please email us at diversity@ala.org.