Open letter to the Bedford Public Library

In June 2022, a group of people protested a local library’s display of LGBTQ+ related books and an unidentified patron checked out all of the books, assumed to be an act of protest to prevent their circulation. The display was then taken down. WSET reported twice on the matter and the Bedford Public Library System issued a statement. Below is my open letter sent to the library director (Jenny Novalis) and the Bedford Public Library Board.

Dear Bedford Public Library System,

I spent my childhood and teenage years in Forest, Virginia and frequented the Forest Public Library. While I live in Stockholm, Sverige with my husband now, I am saddened to hear about a culture war being fought at an institution for knowledge that meant much to me growing up.

I appreciate the library acknowledging LGBTQ+ Pride Month. It would have meant the world to me to have seen such a display 20 years ago.

The existence of queer people is not disputable. We exist. Our community has a long history—a fight for equality under the law and for tolerance, acceptance, and celebration within a society that values the diversity of our species. The history is still being written, as evidenced by an ongoing fight to label my existence as an opinion to be held or as potentially harmful to a child.

People who argue children are too young to learn about LGBTQ+ people reduce us to genitalia and sexual acts. Queerness is a complex part of someone’s identity from the time they are born. Perhaps a good book could help people overcome such ignorance and examine their beliefs.

I encourage the library to consider Karl Popper’s paradox of tolerance: in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must retain the right to be intolerant of intolerance. As a knowledge institution, you must not only defy attempts to erase queer people from existence, you must promote the knowledge fundamental to a tolerant society.

I have purchased and donated 9 LGBTQ+ books in hardback and library binding when available. I hope they find their way to a queer kid trying to understand themself or a family member trying to understand their queer kid.

Kindest regards in hope for a better future,
Jeremiah Lee

Books I donated to the Forest Public Library:

  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
  • Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
  • Man o' War by Cory McCarthy
  • Queer Ducks (and Other Animals) by Eliot Schrefer
  • Queerstory: An Infographic History of the Fight for LGBTQ+ Rights by Rebecca Strickson & Linda Riley
  • Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson
  • Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
  • What Are Your Words? by Katherine Locke
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan