Earlier this year, Library Assistant Hal Patnott (pictured above) saw an opportunity to spark conversations about gender identity with families in the Main Library Children’s Services department.
As a transgender man who’s often mislabeled as “she,” Patnott said, “it gets exhausting after a while.”
So he put up a sign at the service desk: “Ask Me About My Pronouns.”
Patnott, who uses “he” and “him,” said: “I see it as an invitation to learn. People can ask if they’re interested, and it’s less awkward than correcting people after the fact.”
Based on the “Hello There” project by artist Toni Latour, the other side of the sign offers ideas for gender-neutral ways to address people–such as “friend,” a favorite in the library’s Children’s Services department.
Patnott said he’s had conversations with kids about how you can’t assume things about people just by looking at them, and how everyone should feel welcomed and comfortable at the library. “It’s also important for kids to see a transgender adult who’s able to be themselves, which in turn makes them more comfortable being themselves,” he said.
Storytimes to celebrate being yourself
In June, library staff and families celebrated Pride Month with a Rainbow Storytime at each library location. One of the books they shared, Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival, was recently added to the library’s storytime collection as the result of an ongoing diversity audit. “Norman was perfectly normal until he grew wings,” said Early Learning Librarian Shelley Harris. “He was afraid of what his family would say, so he hid them, but that made him miserable. His parents help guide him to be perfectly free and perfectly Norman.”
In July, families can explore the theme of gender identity, again at each library location, through books and songs that celebrate being who you are. Best for ages 3+.
Be Who You Are Storytime
- Maze Branch: Tuesday, July 17, 10:30-11 am
- Main Library: Wednesday, July 18, 11-11:30 am
- Dole Branch: Thursday, July 19, 10:30-11 am
Picture books and more
- Find picture books, fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels for kids on our curated Celebrate and Be Who You Are reading list.
- Curated since 2005, our Transgender Resource Collection remains relevant and important today, said Materials Services Librarian Bleue Benton. “Transgender people continue to be disproportionately affected by hate violence,” Benton said. “This marginalized group faces widespread—often socially condoned—discrimination, harassment, and violence. Our project, with its commitment to diversity and inclusion, helps to promote libraries as welcoming and safe places for everyone.”