David McAvoy is a member of the Democratic Party of Craighead County and wrote this guest column for the June 30, 2021 issue of the Jonesboro Sun. The article is also available online.
During the Holocaust, thousands of LGBTQ people were confined in death camps, along with 6 million Jews and an additional 6 million other “undesirables.”
Their jailers argued that they were a threat to society, especially to children. This charge was not limited to that time and place, though there its manifestation was particularly cruel.
In our own country and other western nations, LGBTQ people have been discriminated against, beaten, confined to jails and mental institutions, tortured, subjected to medical experimentation and involuntary procedures and killed with this same justification.
In the 1950s, movies and books in America warned that “the homosexual” was a predator of children. In the 1970s, laws were passed to prevent gay people from teaching in schools. Anita Bryant claimed that gay people sought to recruit children because they could not reproduce.
In more recent years and in our own state, children in need of loving, structured homes were denied adoption and foster care to families that included LGBTQ people. It has been asserted that if trans people use the bathroom that matches their gender, children will be in danger. Now, this same old prejudiced argument is rearing its head in our own community, this time about Pride displays at our local library.
Those attacking our library and our librarians would have you believe that the display is all about sex. But what they are calling “sex” stretches the meaning of the word so far that it defies good sense. There is no “how-to manual,” no charts and graphs, no instructions or pictures or nothing whatsoever to do with sex in the books at issue.
Instead, they would have you believe that “sex” includes the clothes a person might wear, colorful flags, how a person looks and the mundane details of married life. They do this because they want to dehumanize those of us who are LGBTQ. They realize that if they can convince people this is about sex and children then they can win through fear.
But what’s really being conveyed by this book selection is the importance of love, kindness and fairness to others, respecting differences, self acceptance, courage in the face of adversity and the cruelty of other people. That’s what these displays are really about at their core. So it’s no surprise that those who wish to erase LGBTQ people from visibility would rather talk about sex to advance their agenda against the library.
For our family, this is personal. My nieces and nephews have two gay uncles who love them very much, myself being one of them. Being around LGBTQ people, knowing that there are different people in the world and that everyone is entitled to kindness and respect, and knowing that they have unconditional love and support to be themselves no matter what, has never hurt their childhoods in the least and certainly hasn’t deprived them of their innocence.
We LGBTQ people and our families love each other, take care of each other, pay our taxes, vote and participate in our community just like any of you who don’t wear any of our letters or fly any of our flags. We are normal people and every bit as deserving to see our families represented in the book selection of our library as anyone else in our community is.
I came of age at a time when there was far less acceptance of LGBTQ people than there is now and when politicians were even more blatant about demonizing us. It made accepting yourself, much less coming out and being happy, so much more difficult than it should have been for anyone.
Most of us could probably have used caring librarians and positive displays back then like the one in our library. We learn who and what we are as we are growing up.
Speaking from my own past experience, I know that for many young people in our community this is a very painful and scary debate. LGBTQ youth, who are often disowned by their families, experience abuse and cruel attempts to “fix them” and who are at higher risk for both homelessness and suicide, are hearing and reading what is being said in this debate. How this is resolved will tell them whether they have a place here or not.
Books and libraries destroy the ignorance that those who peddle fear and hatred of others depend on. It is no wonder they attack them. Nothing good in history has ever come from that or from the tired old tropes used to drum up fear against LGBTQ people.
Often, they are preludes to some of history’s worst evils. We should remember that.