Bobbie E. Burnett is suing her employers, the Free Library of Philadelphia, for discrimination. She’s been employed there for nearly 20 years, but transitioned to a female gender identity in 2001, at which point she says discrimination set in.
"Slurs hurled at Burnett by some staffers include ‘freak,’ ‘man in woman’s clothing’ and ‘nigger,’ according to the suit. On one occasion, when Burnett expressed wishes for a nice weekend to a coworker, the employee responded with, ‘Burn in hell,’ according to the lawsuit."
Last year, the Library of Congress lost a lawsuit against a trans person over a job offer. LoC "claimed at trial that transgender people are not covered under federal anti-discrimination laws". The American Library Association has an active GLBT Round Table, but it can still be difficult to find trans information in libraries. Many universities have special resource pages instructing library patrons in searching for GLBT info, because "transgender" isn’t a LoC Subject heading. Users need to search for "transsexuals" or "hermaphroditism" instead of "intersex".
What I didn’t put into the post is how deeply sad and disappointed the article made me. Normally, any time I come across a library or librarian-related news article, I either end up being depressed because I’m reading about massive budget cuts, lay-offs, or library closures, or I end up being proud and happy because I’m reading yet another in a long, long list of “librarians are awesome because _______” articles. Librarians are pretty well-known for protecting intellectual freedoms, lobbying for public access to information, and promoting diversity. To read about a library worker suffering so severely at the hands of her library colleagues was devastating to me.
After reading the article, I turned to the internet to mine for other links to include in the post. I was hoping to find a lot of fantastic trans-librarian stuff. Maybe some uplifting article about the long history of LGBT friendly library administration? A trans-librarian blog, with chronicles of supportive co-workers and naive patrons? Well, not exactly. As you can see, I ended the post with an article about another discrimination lawsuit against the Library of Congress, of all places, and the discovery (which was news to me), that “transgender” isn’t even an LoC subject heading.
If you have any recent “librarians are awesome and promote diversity” stories, please post them in the comments. I could use a bit of a pick-me-up.