Open Letter to the Halifax Public Libraries

RE: The Removal of “Irreversible Damage” 

An open letter to the Halifax Public Libraries from the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project:

We are deeply disappointed that the Halifax Public Libraries (HPL) chose to purchase two copies of Abigail Shrier’s book entitled “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” and continues to carry the title, despite consultations with multiple organizations (including Pflag Halifax, Simply Good Form, Youth Project, and Halifax Pride), parents of trans and gender diverse children, members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and allies. It is often incumbent on marginalized communities to educate on systemic wrongs and we would have hoped that HPL would have honoured and internalized the first-voice accounts generously offered. Halifax Public Libraries, now that you know better, we call on you to do better.

2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and organizations have approached HPL to remove this title from the collection due to its transphobic, damaging, concerning, and hateful content, false and unsupported information, and misleading and misrepresented research. Spreading misinformation and transphobic rhetoric regarding vulnerable communities whose voices are already under-represented is irresponsible and, in this case, dangerous. The contents of this book do not simply represent “different ideas and different perspectives” (Åsa Kachan, HPL CEO, quoted in the June 4, 2021 The Chronicle Herald article).  Make no mistake, nothing less than the lives of trans and gender diverse children are at stake. As an institution with a public commitment to diversity and inclusion and a mandate to welcome 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, it is HPL’s responsibility to ensure that titles that actively promote hate, and are counter to human rights legislation, are not included in the collection.

Public libraries are not to be conflated with National Archives. Like any library collection, HPL has finite space within its collection to make curatorial decisions that reflect the population that it serves, and to right systemic wrongs. Additionally, the HPL collection is a public entity and should best serve and protect the community to which it belongs. This issue is not about censorship or about banning a particular book. This outcry is a direct result of the intentional choice on the part of HPL to include a book that actively promotes violence against trans and gender diverse communities and influences towards conversion therapy in its curated collection. As of today, we understand that HPL continues to retain this title in our public collection. 

We call upon the Halifax Public Libraries to remove all copies of this title immediately from our public collection. Additionally, we are asking for a proactive and transparent accounting of 1) the steps you are taking to undo and remedy the harm perpetuated on our communities, 2) the actions you are taking with regards to collections policy review and 3) the internal training you are undergoing to prevent similar mistakes from occurring in the future.

Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) and HPL have worked hard to build and maintain a relationship of trust and mutual respect. NSRAP has engaged with the HPL Central Library staff to plan an onsite Pride-month event.  NSRAP has been contacted by HPL leadership to provide 2SLGBTQIA+ diversity and inclusion training sessions for HPL staff in the Fall of 2021. The relationship with HPL is very important to NSRAP, and we hope that HPL chooses to continue to work together with us. In order to continue our relationship with HPL, NSRAP would need to ensure that the library is a safe space for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. 

This title is dangerous and will cause harm to trans children and youth, as well as other members and allies of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community if it is allowed to remain in circulation. Should HPL choose not to remove this title from the HPL collection, then the library has ceased to be a safe space for our communities. 

In summary, and in solidarity with the many 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and organizations who have already extensively expressed the harmful and transphobic nature of this title, NSRAP is requesting the immediate removal of all copies of Abigail Shrier’s “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” from all Halifax Public Libraries. Additionally, we would need to hear how you are planning to work to earn back the trust of this community and use more scrutiny in future selections for the HPL collection. Until the library takes concrete action to affirm and protect trans and gender diverse people, starting with the removal of this title, NSRAP will be discontinuing our relationship with HPL. 

Sincerely,

Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP)

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