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Mid-Continent Library evaluating future of transgender program

Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 20:11:02-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite mostly positive feedback for a recent program discussing transgender issues, a handful of comments is prompting the Mid-Content Public Library to delay a second part of the program.

"If you know it or not, you're going to run into a trans person at some point in your life and it's so much easier if people have some background knowledge and we have allies in our community," Riley Long, an activist and presenter of Trans 101, said.

He presented his first program Sept. 3 at the Colbern Road branch in Lee's Summit.

Long was scheduled to host the second Trans 101 program Thursday in Buckner, Missouri, but the library's Board of Trustees decided to delay the program.

"I'm hoping it'll continue to just being positive," Long said.

Three people went to the last board meeting on Sept. 17, saying the library shouldn't offer a program like that.

"This is an important issue for a lot of people. This is an important issue to get right, and I think that's what the board will take time to do," Joycelyn Burgo, who is on the board, said.

The library organized the program with Long after finding out teens in the LGBTQ community have higher suicide rates.

Those who spoke out against the program didn't like that it was held in the open where other people could see it, including their kids.

Susan Wray, assistant library director, said they always vet their programs and invite experienced people to speak.

"As a public library we present all sides, that’s kind of the core mission of a public library‘s intellectual freedom, in providing information whether you agree with it or not," she said.

Many of the Mid-Continent libraries are being renovated and will soon have more intimate meeting spaces.

"This has been in the works for a year," Long said. "This was told that this is going to be for teenagers and adults. I really think just the whole thing about the space, that’s what it’s getting blamed on but I think it’s really more of people's transphobia."

There is no word when the board will decide when to reschedule the program. The next meeting is Oct. 15.

"I'm hoping that the library can be a model of how we can hold conversations that are difficult," Burgo said.