Concerns raised after 'blatantly transphobic' book labelled as staff pick at Whitehorse library
'Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters' was included in staff-picks display
A book one Yukoner describes as "blatantly transphobic" was recently featured as a staff pick at the Whitehorse Public Library, triggering concern amongst some members of the LGBTQ community and prompting the territorial public libraries branch to launch a review.
Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters was among the books included in a staff-picks display at the library earlier this month with a sticker on it, an image of which began circulating on social media last week.
Lane Tredger, the Yukon's first openly-non-binary MLA, said they learned about the situation on Twitter and that it was a "hard tweet to see."
"I love the library so much — I think it's such an important space that's so welcoming, so it was pretty blindsiding to see that really hateful book be promoted there," Tredger, who represents the Whitehorse Centre riding for the Yukon NDP, said in an interview Thursday.
Irreversible Damage has courted controversy and outrage even prior to its publication in 2020. In the text, American author Abigail Shrier, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, repeatedly refers to a "transgender craze" and "social contagion" affecting teenagers in particular, blaming internet content for "enlisting" young girls into "a lifetime of hormone dependency and disfiguring surgeries."
Shrier has previously defended her work and accused critics of misconstruing the book's contents.
Tredger, however, described the book as "very blatantly transphobic" and "transmisogynistic," adding they've seen lots of reactions on social media from people who are "pretty concerned" and "pretty upset."
"My personal opinion is that I don't think we should ban books but I do think for me, the line is when we start promoting them," they said.
"That's when we need to think about, what values are we promoting?"
'All voices' welcome in library reconsideration-of-materials process
In an interview, Yukon public libraries director Melissa Yu Schott said the branch had heard the concerns about Irreversible Damage and has launched a reconsideration-of-materials process.
People can submit their views via forms available at the Whitehorse library, she said, after which a committee which will include herself, the Whitehorse public librarian and a member of the Whitehorse library board will "make a determination."
"I would welcome all voices to this so that it can help inform us and make the right decision," Yu Schott said, adding that the book had been removed from circulation while the review is underway.
Yu Schott added that generally, library collections include materials meant to represent "the broadest range of ideas and points-of-views possible," and that having a particular item in a collection "doesn't mean that the library endorses the content."
"Rather, libraries generally endorse the freedom to access that item, the freedom to access that information," she said.
However, Yu Schott acknowledged that the staff-pick sticker "complicated" the situation, and the review would include how the book came to be labelled as a staff pick.
'I'm really hopeful that this will be a learning moment'
Queer Yukon executive director Mona Luxion told CBC News that while they wished the situation had never happened, the library appeared to be taking steps to "make things right," including "immediately" reaching out to Queer Yukon and being receptive to conversations and feedback.
"I'm really hopeful that this will be a learning moment and an opportunity to rebuild trust," Luxion said.
They added that Queer Yukon was already in discussions with the library about possibly offering inclusivity training for staff, and the situation underlined the importance of that kind of training.
Tredger, for their part, said they thought the "most important" things for the library to do would be publicly responding to concerns and developing a policy ensuring "whatever books are promoted are in line with the values of the library" so that "this sort of thing doesn't happen again."
"I think it can be made right, but I do think that was a really big mistake that has made a lot of people question this institution that we really love," Tredger said.
"I think one piece is that, we're not talking about an issue where people just have different opinions and it's fine to disagree," they added.
"We're talking about a movement that gets people killed, we're talking about a movement that bans people from public spaces, that denies them health care… That's what we're talking about when we talk about transphobia and transphobic books, and I think that's something that the library and all of us have a responsibility to stand against."