Forsyth Library hosts online LGBTQ+ symposium


Rural communities often lack queer visibility and many are without resource centers or a Gender and Sexuality Alliance in local schools. What rural communities do have, however, are libraries.

Mary Elizabeth Turner, a digital curation librarian at Forsyth Library and faculty advisor for the Fort Hays GSA, emphasized this point while welcoming attendees of the Library’s online Kansas LGBTQ+ Leadership Symposium on Wednesday.

“Often, libraries are the only source of support and visibility for the queer community, so today is about demonstrating the ways in which libraries and archives continue to hold space for the LGBTQ community in Kansas,” she said.

The symposium, which was sponsored by the LGBT Resource Center at Kansas State University, consisted of seven presentations. The first was from keynote speaker Brandon West, development coordinator at the Independence Public Library in Independence, KS, and founder of Project Q&A.

West’s presentation, titled ‘The Power of Being,’ discussed being afraid, being visible, and being a leader. According to West, being afraid shapes a person, being visible creates community and being a leader allows individuals to enact change.

“The power of Being allows us to exist as we are, take up space and empower those around us,” he said.

Throughout his presentation, West discussed his own experiences with the power of Being. Keeping with the theme of the symposium, he also spoke about his work at the Independence Public Library, where he discovered how libraries are able to provide an inclusive space.

“I fell in love with what libraries provide,” he said. “Libraries are about connecting people with resources and breaking down barriers that historically discriminated against people face. It is about connecting people with the resources they need to ensure they have the quality of life they want and deserve.”

This point in the presentation was one of the few where West connected his work to the power of Being.

“Creating spaces that are inclusive and safe starts with us being visible,” he said. “. . . simply stated, by being visibly queer we can show that we are neighbors, friends, churchgoers, and community members like everyone else.”

When the audience had the chance to ask questions, Turner brought up the potential for a community group in Hays similar to Project Q&A. While she said the feedback she has heard has all been positive, she asked about how to deal with the inevitable fear.

“It’s all about knowing your community, I’ve found,” West said. “There’s going to be some negative people. Not a lot, they just have a really loud voice, unfortunately. Just make sure that you have support and make sure you’re working within the community.”

A full list and summary of the six other presentations can be found here. The same link can be used to watch recordings of the presentations once they are posted.

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