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Library Rhetoric

The CLA Statement of Diversity and Inclusion and LGBTQ Advocacy


       The Canadian Library Association (CLA) adopted a Statement of Diversity and Inclusion in February 2008. The statement directly references the CLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom (1974) and serves as an umbrella for other pre-existing statements, such as the Canadian Guidelines on Library and Information Services for People with Disabilities (1997) and the Canadian Guidelines on Library and Information Services for Older Adults (2000). This paper aims to identify and evaluate western library association rhetoric related to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ) individuals and groups. The key aim is to identify best practice for direct application to the possible development of a specific CLA position on diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ individuals and groups. This paper is highly relevant to the contemporary Canadian library community and to broader society as it addresses one of the groups (LGBTQ) most in need of access to the information that libraries can offer. Certain themes will be revisited throughout through various lenses. To date, the CLA has no statement specifically on LGBTQ issues, and more particularly, on trans issues.

The CLA’s Statement of Diversity and Inclusion suggests that librarians value Canada as a “pluralistic society” and directs librarians to recognize diversity and work towards inclusion of all Canadians. The goal of this paper is to create discussion about delineation of categories and language used in the Statement of Diversity and Inclusion and to provoke dialogue about how librarians can work towards providing open access. I argue that it is necessary to understand our own situatedness and the inherent privileges therein in order to work towards inclusivity in Canadian libraries. The statement of Diversity and Inclusion suggests that librarians ensure patrons can enjoy services free from any attempts by others to impose values, customs or beliefs upon them. Yet how can librarians do so without first understanding the boundaries already imposed upon themselves and their libraries through societal customs of heteronormativity and correct sex and gender expression? To appreciate and accept diversity, an understanding of what is the norm and what is not, is foundational. It is difficult to negotiate structural barriers of diversity, as the Statement of Diversity and Inclusion aims to do, when terms such as sex and gender have become interchangeably understood to mean the same. In Canada, that which is not the norm is most often understood through a limited naming of categories such as race, religion, gender, age, and sexual orientation, which are understood as deviant. Are these categories inclusive? Who is left out? In this paper I argue that the Statement of Diversity and Inclusion reads as an authority by naming certain categories of diversity and not naming others. In particular I argue that sexual orientation refers to lesbian and gay (homosexuality) as the binary opposite of heterosexuality and formulates a commonsensical understanding of diversity and human rights discourses; an understanding that further marginalizes other categories of difference.

Canadian (and other) library strategies, policies, visions and values written on the topic of LGBTQ persons usually end up addressing homosexual/same-sex experiences, thereby excluding trans and bisexual persons who do not neatly fit into these categories. This paper explores how categorization based upon the acronym LGBTQ actually excludes people and perpetuations incorrect and inappropriate assumptions about sex, sexuality, and gender, as well as human rights. The growing need for information for those excluded is as great as or arguably greater than for those who fall neatly into established categories. Materials written for LGBTQ persons are often limited by the language of lesbian and gay experience. Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Martin and Murdock (2004) mentions transgender and transsexual seven times in the entire book and two of these mentions are to define the terms. Over two hundred pages are devoted to lesbian, gay and occasionally bisexual youth needs. Librarians are aware that youth look for their experiences to be reflected in literature of their library collections; trans youth are likely to find a great void about their experiences. Librarians need to understand how the dominant terms and language restrict boundaries of sex, gender, and sexual orientation to a sticky matrix of conflated terms. We can begin to untangle the language and learn new ways to include patrons who are often excluded and provide access to much needed information.


Language and Meaning