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Information for Social Change

Information for Social Change

"an activist organisation that examines issues of censorship, freedom and ethics amongst library and information workers..."

ISC 12. Editorial

Our prospects depend upon ourselves and on our own capacity to demand our rights. Society may marginalize us; but we have to offer an image that we are people who have virtues and defects, just as anybody else, that the choice of being gay, lesbian, or heterosexual does not imply anything else; this is and will be our battlefield to believe in ourselves and for society to believe in us.

For how long must we endure being treated as if we are sick or pathological?

Why should we allow them to accuse us of being antisocial?

For how long must we be an object of discrimination, of prejudices, of abuses, of blackmail, of repression, of phobias?

Let us show them that we are not sick, that we are not antisocial, and let us struggle against discrimination, abuses, and blackmail.

For the first time we have consciously gathered here in unity. Being afraid can only help the ideas of our detractors.

Being afraid is absurd if we want to defend our rights.

It is necessary to act proudly, to make a daring gesture; it is necessary to act with courage. We will struggle without rest and will conceive our struggle as one of cultural and personal liberation

Quoted from the Manifesto of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Cuba, 28 July 1994 Editorial

I am a gay man. Five short words yet each time I come out and Ive been doing so for over 25 years part of me asks do I need to? and another bit of me asks and will they still like me?

Many people argue that lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people (hereafter shorthanded to LGBT) do not need to come out and, indeed, by doing so are forcing it down your throat. Yet what are the alternatives? The other choices seem to me to be to lead a life of pretence, substituting her for him (or vice versa), never to join in those staff-room conversations about holidays, to lead a closeted and separated life. In the year 2001 surely we should have got beyond all this yet a quick look at any daily newspaper will show just how rife discrimination against LGBTs is (think Clause 28, Brian Souter, Archbishop Winning, queer-bashing and murder).

Quite apart from any personal reasons for wanting to live my life in the flow, I also believe that LGBTs, particularly those in positions of power and/or privilege, have a responsibility to come out, to lessen the feeling of being isolated (am I the only one like this?), to make the environment a bit safer for everyone else.

Yet where are all the out LGBTs in the public eye? For every Chris Smith and Ben Bradshaw, Stephen Gateley and Julian Clary, Hayley from Coronation Street and Jan Morris, Pam St Clement and Martina Navratilova, there are thousands and thousands of closeted politicians, musicians, entertainers, sportspeople and other well-known individuals.

Turning to our own field, where are all the out LGBT librarians in the UK?

In the US, the long-standing Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table of the American Library Association [ALA] has a strong presence at ALA events, presents annual awards, and publishes regular newsletters (see below for further information). Part of the reason for this is, of course, the sheer numbers of people living in the US, but I think that important elements are also the position of Round Tables in relation to the ALA and the fact that there is a history of minority/ socially excluded individuals and groups writing and speaking about their lives personal and professional.

In the UK, there is also a flourishing group, the Burning Issues Group: it is currently quite small, but is beginning to consider ways of creating more of an impact. However, its position as an Organisation in Liaison with the UK Library Association [LA] may well mean that its presence is not as strongly felt as in the US perhaps the forthcoming restructuring of the LA will put this group more centre-stage.

I am delighted to edit this issue of ISC, and to be able to include contributions from Martin Garnar, Ellen Greenblatt, and Anne Ramsden.

John Vincent
January 2001


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