Pride as Activism | Editorial

It’s June—celebrate LGBTQIA+ resistance.

It’s June—celebrate LGBTQIA+ resistance

Lisa Peet headshotThe joy I feel when I see Pride Month displays and programming go up in June is genuine and heartfelt. Pride displays are meaningful and jubilant at the same time, packed with value for all readers; even the simplest tacked-up rainbow carries far more weight than one would think possible of construction paper.

Which is why, of course, those displays have come under attack lately, along with the titles centering LGBTQIA+ experiences, people, and history that they feature. Pride displays have received backlash from local censorship groups and libraries’ own boards, been the subject of “hide the pride” campaigns in which books are checked out or reshelved, and even prompted city or state officials to threaten library funding. Some administrators have taken the path of least resistance, moving books with LGBTQIA+ content out of teen and YA areas or keeping them behind the reference desk, rather than face the fallout.

For years, library Pride Month offerings reflected the upbeat tone of their rainbow decor, celebrating and commemorating LGBTQIA+ people and experiences. Putting up a Pride display in 2023 has, in many parts of the country, become an act of resistance—part of a long-standing and honorable tradition of stepping forward for, and within, the LGBTQIA+ community.

I grew up encouraged to take to the streets for what I believed in and have been fortunate to have the opportunities and allies necessary; in tenth grade my class rode the bus down to Washington, DC, for the 1979 No Nukes Rally, and over the years I’ve kept marching. But the rage and fear of the early days of the AIDS crisis, in the late 1980s through mid ’90s, showed me a different side of activism. I was in New York, where several accessible grassroots protest organizations worked to push back against the government’s indifference to AIDS and those most immediately affected by it—gay men, intravenous drug users, and those without adequate access to medical care. My friends and I were young, loud, and angry, but we were also lucky—not only because of our privilege and our survival, but in the lessons we learned about how youth, loudness, and anger could be harnessed to organize and effect change. Worldwide access to treatment is still poor, but the number of AIDS-related deaths has continued to decline since the early 2000s, and more people in power now at least pay attention. I believe that we—all—helped cause that.

In “Do LIS Programs Prepare Future Librarians for Real-World Challenges?” Laura Winnick asks instructors whether the new cohort of library professionals is being prepared for the challenges they will face, and how LIS education needs to change. Many said that students should learn about advocacy, organizing, and resistance before they enter the field. If current events are any indication, the new crop of librarians is going to need that knowledge—not only so they can negotiate the current landscape of challenges, bans, and political jockeying with libraries as pawns, but so they can show the public how to stand up as well. There are new threats to the country’s LGBTQIA+ communities, and they aren’t alone—people of color and many others are at risk, particularly at the intersections of those identities—and a populace that knows how to speak out, and that is aware of its options and rights, is the best defense we have.

The fact that Pride Month occurs in June is rooted in activism. It commemorates the Stonewall riots that occurred at the end of June 1969, when members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community launched a series of spontaneous uprisings after having to fight back when a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in downtown Manhattan, became violent. Protest is an honorable tradition. Library workers putting together their Pride displays should take what encouragement they can from the movements that went before them, check out Kelly Jensen’s advice at Book Riot, and consider adding a few good histories and biographies of those who helped make a difference—ACT UP, Gran Fury, Queer Nation, Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Jeanne Córdova, Barbara Smith, to name just a few. Libraries can and should continue this history of impactful activism. And don’t forget to cut out those construction-paper rainbows. Joy is important too.

Lisa Peet signature

Author Image
Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Executive Editor for Library Journal.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing