INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — On Tuesday, dozens packed into the normally scarcely attended board meeting for the Mid Continent Public Library.
Both critics and supporters crowded into the meeting in Independence to speak out on a recent free program offered at the library titled “Trans 101.”
“It’s a presentation to talk about what it means to be transgender. It’s to share a little bit about my life story,” said Riley Long, the host of the program.
Trans 101 became a flash point for debate recently after a library board member from Platte County, Rita Wiese, penned a lengthy letter to the editor calling for an end to programs focused topics dealing with gender identity.
“A once safe community setting known as the public library has become a space that, in the guise of intellectual freedom, wants to change thinking on voyeurism and gender confusion, while promoting materials and programs that lead children toward being sexually exploited,” Wiese wrote in the Nov. 6 edition of The Landmark newspaper.
Wiese closed out her letter urging others to attend Tuesday’s library board meeting to speak on out the issue.
And on Tuesday, people on all sides of the Trans 101 debate turned out.
“It’s an inappropriate endorsement of a controversial topic,” said State Rep. Dan Stacy, a Republican from Blue Springs, “a political topic that should have had an opportunity for opposing views.”
Mark Velder from Independence held up an item from a recent TIME magazine to show his opposition.
“They are marketing, Mattel is marketing, transgender dolls so you can take these little dolls and make it a boy, a girl, or both or neither,” he said.
An equal number of speakers took to the podium to support Trans 101.
“It is very apparent that people do not believe that this is a public library but their specific church,” said Inoru, a Ph.D. candidate from Gladstone.
Crayola Bolger, a youth librarian with the Mid Continent Library System, also spoke in support of Trans 101.
“The other thing is, every single one of these Mid Continent Public Library programs, whether we think they should be or not, they are all optional, no one has to go to one.”
The library has no plans to vote on whether to suspend or continue the Trans 101 program.
When asked if she still stands behind her letter to the editor, Rita Wiese said, “No comment.”