, George Belvitch, Katie Borninski and Laurie Mayers 
Donate LGBTQ Resources

This week, we hear from PFLAG National Communications Intern, Jeff Johnson. As he researched PFLAG chapter activity across the country, a story crossed his desk that really caught his eye:

Recently, a report that PFLAG Plymouth-Canton donated books to its local library caught my attention. The story may not be appreciated immediately, but consider the power of LGBTQ representation in public places, representation which has been denied in the recent past. In that light, it is so meaningful and impactful that PFLAG-Plymouth/Canton was able to successfully work with its local library to expand its LGBTQ section.

As reported by Darell Clem, PFLAG Plymouth-Canton president George Belvitch “...understands the need for reading materials for parents, their children and others personally confronting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, issues.” About ten years ago, Belvitch learned his son was gay, and it prompted him to form a PFLAG chapter with Laurie Mayers, chapter secretary, and Kate Borninski, who now sits on Plymouth Canton’s school board.

Carol Souchock, Plymouth District Library director, accepted two $100 donations from PFLAG Plymouth-Canton to provide more books and resources for community members to explore and reflect on LGBTQ issues. I followed up by email with George, Katie, and Laurie. Their collective response may be helpful to other chapter leaders interested in working with local libraries:

Jeff: Did you have to cultivate a relationship with librarians first? Are there any local politics to keep in mind?

“It helps that we knew a few librarians through other channels and relationships. After we found out who to approach at the libraries, we audited which LGBT-themed books they already had, then approached the head librarians with the idea of donating money or books for their collections. We provided a recommended list of additional books we thought they should have. They wanted to decide on the suitability of the books on their own, which of course makes sense.”

Jeff: Second, which titles did you donate, and what considerations did you have to make in selecting those titles?

“Attached is the list of our recommendations [a few examples: for children, I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel; for teens, My New Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein; for parents, Gender Made, Gender Born by Diane Ehrensaft]. We developed it with help from Keith Orr, the co-owner of Common Language, the LGBT bookstore in Ann Arbor. Both our public libraries already had good selections of YA books with LGBT characters and stories, which are therefore not included on our list. After talking with our members and reflecting on recent tragedies, we wanted to be sure our local libraries had a good selection of resources for parents of LGBT kids, so our list includes several books for them.”

Jeff: Finally, could you reflect a little bit on the symbolic importance of representation at the library?

“We are strong believers in public libraries. They represent trustworthy, visible and accessible sources of knowledge for the community. It is so important that adults and children who are exploring their identities find out -- often through books -- that there are others like them.”

Thank you, George, Kate, and Laurie, for your work to support, affirm, and advocate for our LGBTQ friends and family members. Your thoughtful answers taught Jeff a lot, and hopefully they can be of some use to other chapter members working on representative inclusiveness in their communities.