LGBT Pride Month

LGBT Pride Month

Balloons! Streamers! Boisterous music! Bright rainbow colors! Costumes, dancing, hands and hips waving, face paint, and glitter galore, plus more skin than one usually sees on the street. What’s up? It’s not a book, it’s not a plane, it’s THE PRIDE PARADE, part of the annual LGBT Pride Month celebration held in June! Wow! What fun, what energy, what a display of extroversion! But why?

First, I assume that most of us librarians know something about Gay Pride and a little of the history behind LGBT Pride Month (side note: if not, take a gander at this timeline from Infoplease). Some of us may even have been lucky enough to watch the "Dykes on Bikes Women’s Motorcycle Contingent" start off the annual Pride parade on San Francisco’s Market Street, as I did many years ago while attending the annual ALA conference. But history aside, and behind the celebratory air, what’s the purpose of Pride Month beyond parading?

In the U.S., as well as in most democratic countries, the rights of LGB—and to some extent, T—people have become, arguably, somewhat secure, in most situations, most of the time, though often not in employment . But in some cases simply walking down the street can be dangerous. So why wave flags and wear costumes?

Why? Because they can be waved, because they can be worn! Each in their way, LGBT persons celebrate pride in who they are and demonstrate self-esteem. Some knowledge of history goes a long way in appreciating the fact that although LGBT people have some rights today, it has not always been the case. Ever heard of the Daughters of Bilitis or the Mattachine Society? What about the Stonewall Inn in NYC? Incidentally, this June also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Pick up a trusty or rusty reference book, or go online with a swift search engine and look ‘em up! The bold voices and risky actions of gutsy men and women have gradually changed societal views on LGBT rights, straight up to Obergefell v. Hodges (look that one up, too!). There is much to celebrate, even if one doesn’t like to parade.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it succinctly with these nine words: "No one is free until we are all free." As proponents of the freedom to read, freedom of information, and free access, we librarians have extended the spirit of these concepts to LGBT rights. Just as the library in many southern towns was the first community facility to be racially desegregated, so often it’s the library that has been the first place that LGBT people could find factual information and role-positive fiction characters amidst the sea of misinformation and shame-filled stories.

Can one imagine a world of books without the voices of gay and lesbian writers? It is just as absurd as was the tongue-in-cheek article that appeared in the Sierra Club Bulletin in mid-1975 that suggested imagining a world without trout. Think of the ramifications: no “Trout Quintet” from Schubert, no Trout Fishing In America by Richard Brautigan, etc. Just so, readers, try to think of the loss to books and reading without LGBT authors such as:

Edward Albee
James Baldwin
Clive Barker
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Rita Mae Brown
Augusten Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
Truman Capote
Willa Cather
John Cheever
Patricia Cornwell
Ram Dass
Ellen DeGeneres
Maureen Duffy
Bret Easton Ellis
Harvey Fierstein
Allen Ginsburg
Lorraine Hansberry
Lillian Hellman
Langston Hughes
Audre Lorde
Thomas Mann
W. Somerset Maugham
Armistead Maupin
Terrence McNally
Anais Nin
Tig Notaro
Mary Oliver
Suze Orman
Chuck Palahniuk
Sylvia Plath
Mary Renault
Robin Roberts
May Sarton
David Sedaris
Maurice Sendak
Gertrude Stein
Colm Toibin
Gore Vidal
Alice Waters
Evelyn Waugh
Edmund White
Walt Whitman
Oscar Wilde

And there are, no doubt, many more authors, unknown to us, perhaps hiding in the closet or obscured by history. One can extrapolate this to figures in sports, theatre, politics, religion, business, films, and so on.

In 1968, Frank Kameny coined the slogan “Gay is good” to counter stigma from society and a sense of guilt and shame that many closeted LGBT people had. These days, LGBT people can find in libraries much engaging fiction with positive characters and the freedom to explore their interests, just like any other library user would expect to find. Way to go, librarians—keep up the good work!

Here are two rich booklists that will further help improve library collections to keep them relevant for LGBT persons and their friends and family.

LGBT Pride Month - New Fiction
LGBT Pride Month - Nonfiction