Hate Will Not Win

“You know,” my neighbor said, “The Delaware Main Library hasn’t had a book display of LGTBQ+ titles in honor of Pride this year.”

That’s odd, because the Delaware Main Library has highlighted LGBTQ+ books in a prominent location for the past several years in June, in recognition of LGBT Pride month.  It was so odd that I contacted the library to make sure. My neighbor was right.

Maybe it isn’t so odd.  At the beginning of June, the library’s leadership, in consultation with law enforcement, cancelled local drag celebrity Selena T. West’s workshop entitled “Drag 101” that had been requested by Delaware City teens.  The curriculum included the history of drag as an artform, past and current drag icons, and the basics of developing a drag persona through costumes and make up. Despite the fact that this harmless information was wanted and needed by our young people, the library received threats of violence towards the library staff, patrons, and Selena T. West.  The Delaware Library leadership made the hard decision to cancel the class, choosing correctly to prioritize innocent lives over its mission to provide information freely to all.

That action left an opportunity for the everyday people of Delaware to love with the force of a thousand suns.  After the cancellation, Secret Identity Comics in downtown Delaware offered space in their store for the class, which was privately funded by donations from supportive citizens.  More than double the number of students who had registered through the library turned out for the Secret Identity Comics event. Dozens of Delaware County residents rallied to support the courageous Selena and her class of students on June 5.  In a beautiful display of love, support, and hope, the citizens of Delaware County showed up emblazoned with Pride rainbows and flags and chalked positive messages for Selena, the students of the class, and the LGBTQ+ people of Delaware as a whole.  This week, Spiritual Horizons of Delaware hosted an organizational meeting for a Free to Be Me group for teens interested in forming a supportive LGBTQ+ community. This weekend’s Delaware Pride Bar Hop featuring Selena West was a success, with 13 downtown bars, restaurants, and businesses participating.  Planning for a Delaware Pride Festival in 2020 (sign the petition here) is underway.

The Delaware Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (DUUF), of which I am a member as well as the outgoing Board President, joins the rest of the Delaware County community in celebrating and praising Selena, Secret Identity Comics, and most especially the young people who had the courage to request and then attend this class in pursuit of knowledge.  We support and are proud of the leadership of our library system, especially Director George Needham, for responding to the needs of Delaware’s young people and, when necessary, taking steps to protect them from possible violence born of hate and fear. We are thrilled to be part of a community that has celebrated our LGBTQ+ friends and family more abundantly than ever in my memory.

Unitarian Universalists believe, as one of seven principles, in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and that emphatically includes those in the LGBTQ+ community as well as our youth.  We are angry and saddened that a few non-residents with political agendas chose to incite their followers to interfere with our business using threats and harassing communication. However, we are confident that the staff and Board of our library will continue to support LGBTQ+ people and our youth in the coming months and years with additional programming highlighting the positive impact that these groups have in our community and in the world.  We hope future programming specifically includes the return of a book display highlighting the contributions of the LGTBQ+ community during the upcoming Delaware Pride Festival 2020, because such information and knowledge is needed and wanted by most people, not just a few people, here in Delaware.

Hate will not win.  Our nation’s culture and learning around LGBTQ+ issues is evolving toward a more loving, more accepting, and more just understanding, despite the setbacks along the way.  We UUs of Delaware are proud to be citizens of Delaware County, where the library’s staff and leadership truly supports the right of all people–most especially our young people and those in the LGTBQ+ community– to information and lifelong learning in a safe and supportive environment.