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Commissioners, think of the children

I, like many in our community, was disheartened over the Lycoming County Commissioners’ response to a Pride display in the children’s wing of the James V. Brown Library.

Much of the commentary in the article, and on display in the publicly available recording of the meeting, centers on “the children.” Commissioners Mussare and Metzger would like us to think of the children, and what’s best for them, and I couldn’t agree more.

I would encourage the Commissioners to think of the children in Lycoming County who feel like they don’t belong to the gender they are perceived as, the children of Lycoming County who may realize they are attracted to the same sex while their peers are attracted to the opposite sex, the children of Lycoming County who have family that include gay and transgender men and women.

When we focus these debates on children in abstract, we erase the children who will benefit most from a display of this kind. I am a gay man, and I can’t imagine what wonders a display like this could have done for me, what heartache and damage might have been averted if I was given access to literature that could help me come to understand and love myself at a young age.

There is nothing shameful about being gay or transgender. But sadly, for many young queer people, we are taught by the world around us that we should be ashamed and hide our feelings from the world. These books, none of which contain any explicit content and all of which are aimed at readers in the elementary school level, can help show kids that they don’t have to be ashamed, that they are whole and beautiful as they are, and that there is no reason to hide.

For children who are not confused, or are not grappling with these feelings, these kinds of books can also make a world of difference. LGBTQ+ people are everywhere — it’s 2021, even in Lycoming County, there is no doubt children will meet and interact with members of the LGBTQ+ community before adulthood. Books are the most powerful tool of empathy available, and these books in particular can offer a model for understanding and acceptance. These books will not “confuse” children but instead help offer understanding, so when a friend or family member is courageous enough to come out to them, they will know to respond with pride and open arms.

Whether or not the Commissioners Mussare and Metzger intended to be homophobic in their remarks, this moral panic over children’s exposure to the LGBTQ+ community is rooted in homophobia. Claiming children should not be exposed to, or “indoctrinated” by LGBTQ+ content, inherently makes this subject matter taboo and perpetuates the idea that the members of the LGBTQ+ community are predatory. We fear what we do not understand, and if we cast these books into the shadows, or hide them on the shelves, we can be sure we’ll be fostering a world with more fear and with less understanding.

I also applaud Commissioner Mirabito for his supportive words and focus on a “community of tolerance.” I have faith that Lycoming County is and will continue to be that community of tolerance, understanding, and kindness.

DYLAN LEAHY

Montoursville

Submitted via Virtual Newsroom

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