Embracing Gender Diversity

they~posted by Micah K.

Here at Seattle Public Library we think a lot about how we can be a more inclusive resource for our communities. When the American Dialect Society announced in January that the singular “they” was the word of 2015, we started discussing in more depth the benefits of using gender neutral language when serving our patrons. We live in a world that attaches gender to everything: from toys to books to clothes, we’ve been socialized to see things as either masculine or feminine. We recognize that as professionals that interact with the public, it is second nature to assume gender in our brief interactions with you lovely humans. Instead of taking the easy route of relying on our assumptions about gender, we are challenging ourselves to use gender inclusive language to welcome our transgender and gender non-conforming patrons and create more space for gender diversity in our libraries. (We also really do not want to misgender, or use a word or pronoun that does not correctly reflect the gender with which an individual identifies, our patrons.)

Recently, more folks have learned more about the experiences of transgender folks as there has been media attention around transgender celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and Chaz Bono. That said, this subject is still new for many people. So over the last few weeks, I scoured our collection for the books that I, as a transgender person, think describe gender identity and the transgender experience well, so that I could share some resources with those who are interested in learning more about embracing gender diversity.

Meet Polkadot by Talcott Broadhead

Meet Polkadot by Talcott Broadhead.

In this beautifully illustrated children’s book, Talcott Broadhead, a genderqueer identified parent, introduces us to Polkadot, your average kiddo who likes to play on the playground with friends and hang out with their older sister. Polkadot talks to readers about what gender identity is, how it differs from biological sex, and how the gender binary can leave folks out. This book is an awesome resource for folks of all ages who would like to learn more about welcoming gender diversity and creating safe space for transgender folks.

Transgender 101Transgender 101 by Nicholas Teich

As the title so succinctly states, Transgender 101 is a great book for anyone looking for an introduction to what it means to be transgender. The author, Nicholas Teich, writes from his perspective as a member of the transgender community, as well as his background as a social worker and educator. With chapters that discuss coming out, discrimination, and transition, this short book touches both on some of the ways transgender folks experience the world, as well as how cisgender people, or individuals whose gender coincides with the sex they were assigned at birth, respond to them. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about the daily realities, terminology, history, and politics relevant to the transgender community.

For folks who are currently exploring their gender identity (or would like to begin exploring it!), I recommend checking out The Gender Quest Workbook by Rylan Jay Testa, Deborah Coolhart, and Jayme Peta and My New Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein. Both of these workbooks have thoughtful writing prompts and fun activities to help readers reflect on how they wish to express their gender and how their gender expression impacts their relationships, well-being, and dreams.

Tran Bodies Trans SelvesTrans Bodies, Trans Selves edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth

This book, written by and for transgender and gender non-conforming people, is the most in depth resource I have seen for the transgender community. It was inspired by Our Bodies, Ourselves and through the input of hundreds of community members discusses important issues for transgender folks, such as employment, health, race, parenthood, and employment. I would strongly recommend this compendium to anyone who identifies as transgender or gender non-conforming (or think they may!) and to allies who would like to learn more.

Additionally, since shifting away from gendered language can be really challenging, I came up with some gender inclusive phrases for my colleagues that I’d like to share with you all, in case they are helpful in your everyday lives.

Instead of… Try…
Hello, ma’am/sir. Hello there.

Hello friend. (for our youngest patrons!)

Did she/he enjoy that book? Did that patron enjoy that book?

Did they enjoy that book?

Did the person in the green jacket enjoy that book?

Your baby girl is so strong! Your little library friend is so strong!
Did you ladies/guys find everything alright?


Did you all find everything alright?

Did you folks find everything alright?

Does your little sister want a sticker too? Does your sibling want a sticker too?

Does your buddy want a sticker too?



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