Creating Safe, Inclusive Spaces for LGBTQ+ Youth; presented by Ez Rodriguez (they/them/ellx)

Day 1 of #AASL23 started off great! This was my first session of the conference and the presenter did an amazing job of providing data from the Human Rights Campaign’s 2023 LGBTQ+ Youth Report (librarian’s LOVE data), explaining current trends surrounding LGBTQ+ legislation, and giving specific ways librarians can support LGBTQ+ students.

To start with, this isn’t a “fun” session but it is an extremely important session and one that helped bring to light the issues that so many students are facing as they navigate life. In fact, it’s such a scary time the HRC has issued (for the first time ever) a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ people living in the United States. You can access it here. It helps outline what rights might be in danger for LGTQ+ people in each state. While that is frightening to say the least, there is some positive data as well. Support for LGBTQ+ equal rights is actually at an all-time high. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could start seeing that trend when bills are being introduced?

It is time for change. The mental health of our LGBTQ+ youth is at risk. Depression, anxiety, and severe psychological distress is being seen in a large percentage of students. Not surprising sadly, but almost 6 in 10 LGBTQ+ youth report they have been verbally or physically harassed at least once in the previous 30 days. This quote really hit home for me, “We are only the experts of our own experiences in the world”. Consider that as you work with students. Actually consider that as you interact with all people.

So what now? Well as librarians there is a lot we can do. We can be a safe space for ALL students. Here are some of the specific ways that were shared to show support for the LGBTQ+ youth in your community:

  1. Post positive and LGBTQ+ affirming symbols
  2. Provide age-appropriate books (check out this list of book ideas from Welcoming Schools)
  3. Add pronouns to library accounts and add them to staff nameplates, badges, websites, etc.
  4. Host all ages LGBTQ+ community events, book clubs, etc.
  5. Ensure your library provides professional development books (and training) on bias-based bullying
  6. Provide affirming local resources
  7. Allow all patrons to go by their chosen name

The importance of librarians being the safe space for students was brought to light as I left the convention center on the trolley today. A group of college students struck up a conversation with me. They were excited to learn that I am a librarian. Then each one of them took turns telling me how the library was exactly that for them in school. To quote one student, “the library was where I went to feel at peace.”

-Carrie Bresnehen, Library Specialist, Austin ISD

Author: Carrie Bresnehen

Categories: AASL National Conference

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