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LGBTQ2 group calls book transphobic, boycotts Halifax Public Library for not removing it

Revellers participate in the annual Halifax Pride parade in Halifax on Saturday, July 23, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Halifax Pride has decided to end its relationship with Halifax Public Libraries after HPL declined to withdraw a book from its collection.

The book is called Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters, in which Halifax Pride says jeopardizes the safety of trans youth, through unsupported medical claims and the transphobic assertion that trans identities are a choice.

In a statement, Halifax Public Libraries said free access to information and ideas is the democratic right of every citizen.

However, the executive director of Youth Project said the book puts trans youth in harm’s way and is in support of Halifax Pride’s decision.

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Carmel Farahbakhsh, who goes by the pronouns they/them, said they understand that the libraries do not want to engage in censorship and does agree with that.

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I do not want to tell the person who wrote this book that they cannot publish. But I do want to have a community-centered space…taking a stance to protect marginalized voices and say that they’re not going to carry it,” they said.

Following the Halifax Public Libraries’ statement, they said a lot of youth felt discouraged and disappointed.

I think a lot of youth are feeling nervous because the reality is that when you don’t take space to really reflect on how this impacts a marginalized community, it actually emboldens people who are actively looking to suppress them,” they said.

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Farahbakhsh said that the book speaks to a time when transgender health issues were classified as mental and behavioural disorders, which is “an incredibly traumatic history of the LGBTQ community.”

This issue of trans identity having been institutionalized not only pertains to the Library and the book they carry. Farahbakhsh alleges the lack of general access to safer spaces for trans and non-gender conforming youth also exists in the country’s medical system and social services.

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“Something that is incredibly sad for me is that I know a lot of our youth really love the library…It is the space that folks can access for free, there are comfy chairs where you feel like you can be yourself,” Farahbakhsh said.

“And I know that this is going to be very disappointing for a lot of folks that really saw the library [as] the space that was for them,” they added.

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Halifax Public Libraries was not available for an interview but said it will continue to look for ways to support the trans community.

Farahbakhsh said the Youth Project, dedicated to providing support and services to LGBTQ youth, will engage in conversation with the Library about the issue next week.

I think that the resounding ask has been that the book is removed from the Halifax Public Library. But there’s also another really important element to that, which is that the Halifax Public Library reviews its collection development policy,” they said.

“I hope that a public library can look at its policy and make some changes to create a safer and more welcoming environment,” Farahbakhsh said.

In a statement, Halifax Pride said it won’t be booking library spaces until there is a review, policy change, and internal training.

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