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Penn College Student Government responds to pride display comments

On June 8 at the Lycoming County commissioners meeting, Commissioners Metzger and Mussare attacked a decision by the James v. Brown library to display LGBTQ+ family friendly reading options during pride month, calling the display inappropriate and a means of indoctrination. The local community benefits when we can come together to celebrate our diversity, when we can encourage each other to stand up proudly as who we are, and when we can have discussions openly about what our identities mean to us. Demanding that the display of a handful of books on a small table in a public library be removed is damaging and counterproductive to the richness of our community.

Commissioners Metzger and Mussare imply that, by being exposed to this literature, by simply seeing it on a table, that children will somehow develop confusions about who they are, and this will lead to bullying, depression, and suicides. This implication could not be further from the truth. The message from the commissioners is loud and clear to LGBTQ+ youth. Your identity is not something to be celebrated or seen. Go back into the closet. This destructive messaging and the demand for members of the LGBTQ+ community to not have their stories or identities visible is more harmful and contributory to bullying and depression than any small table display could be. These displays provide assurance to LGBTQ+ individuals that they are loved and heard; a sentiment they may not receive anywhere else. Removing this display would show those in the LGBTQ+ community that they are not welcomed within Lycoming County and that they are not valuable members of our community.

The commissioners stated that, were these books allowed to remain displayed, that they would confuse children. This implies that parents would not be able to educate their own children in LGBTQ+ matters. We ought to trust parents, perhaps more than the commissioners do, to know how to have these conversations with their children. It is disappointing to hear the commissioners suggest that children are so weak-willed that a display will lead to indoctrination. These displays provide families an opportunity to learn about the different enriching cultures in our community. Parents do not need government commissioners from the county dictating what can or cannot be displayed in a library or what celebrations we can or cannot have. In Parents We Trust.

The commissioners say they do not want book burnings, just a removal of a harmless display. However, when the intention is to hide information or prevent readings by pushing it to the back ends of dusty shelves, the result can be largely similar. The First Amendment, the right to freedom of speech, is at the core of our nation’s values. Libraries provide displays with rotating themes, allowing exploration into previously unknown topics for local readers, an opportunity that should be available to all Americans, young and old. With Independence Day rapidly approaching, it is a blessing to have our local libraries defend our rights to this freedom by allowing the LGBTQ+ community freedom of expression without interference of the personal opinions of politicians. It is a blessing for our community to have the chance to develop the bonds between the greater Lycoming community and the LGBTQ+ community, a group of people who have faced animosity for years.

As we observe Flag Day, and our neighbors and community look up to see the grand old flag flying over the entrance to Penn College, we hope that it emboldens our community to know that we, the Penn College Student Government Association Executive Board stands and celebrates the diversity of our community and supports the display of these books. We welcome all members of the community and celebrate the differences between us and how we all enrich our culture. This pride month we recommit our solidarity with the members of the LGBTQ+ community, here and everywhere.

Last year, the Penn College Student Government Executive Board was, perhaps for the first time, majority LGBTQ+. We are students in your community. We are your friends, we are your family, and we ask to be seen.

When Commissioners Metzger and Mussare demand that these books be removed from display, they are demanding that we hide our pride and we hide who we fundamentally are. It is important, now more than ever, that we do not allow our loved ones to be forcibly pushed back into shadows and into the closets.

ROBERT LUNA, president

KAI MARSHALL, executive vice president

CHARLES MIERWALD, vice president of internal affairs

RACHAEL LEVITAN, vice president of public relations

SYDNEY TELESKY, vice president of finance

Penn College Student Government Association Executive Board

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