Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sunday Reflections: Let’s Talk About INSATIABLE, Fat Shaming and Eating Disorders

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST TALKS ABOUT SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND EATING DISORDERS

tltbutton5

I am a 45 year-old anorexic inhabiting a fat body. Even though I am fat and I eat daily, I must admit that I am still an anorexic because I suffer from body image issues, disordered eating and the anorexic mindset. My therapist once explained to me that eating disorders are much like addiction, you don’t really recover so much as we learn to manage our issues. Mostly. There is no cure for an eating disorder, but there is learning to live well with one.

I present this image not as inspiration, I was unhappy and unhealthy in this body.  I have spent a lot of time trying to undo this toxic mindset and find ways to be happy and healthy in my body.

I present this image not as inspiration, I was unhappy and unhealthy in this body. I have spent a lot of time trying to undo this toxic mindset and find ways to be happy and healthy in my body. I was, quite literally, dying here.

My anorexia began for me in middle school. Middle school, high school and the college years are pretty ripe for developing an eating disorder. My eating disorder, like many, is tied in to many factors, including the fact that I was also sexually abused in my middle school years. There is a high incidence of eating disorders among sexual assault survivors. I also had some family members who were anorexic and not only modeled the behaviors, but practiced the fine art of body shaming. All of these factors came together in the perfect melting pot that produced Karen, anorexic extraordinaire. I would never wish any of this on anyone, which is why I have such a strong, negative opinion about Insatiable.

I spent all of my teenage years and a great deal of my twenties not eating. I was ravenous with hunger, but eating was my personal enemy. As I said, I have some very disordered eating patterns and the ways in which I think about food and my body are truly twisted and toxic. Living in a culture that both sexualizes and scrutinizes the female body does not help. We harm women every day in the ways we talk about the female body.

This is my family. They are a blessing. I try hard every day to guard these girls, my heart, from the toxic messaging of our culture.

This is my family. They are a blessing. I try hard every day to guard these girls, my heart, from the toxic messaging of our culture.

I am also the mother of two amazing daughters. I love them. A lot. I have 3 main parenting goals:

1) Raise happy, well adjusted daughters that contribute positively to society

2) Keep them safe from sexual abuse

3) Help them learn to love their bodies in ways that I never could

As you can imagine, these are not easy goals and it is frustrating to learn not only how much of it is out of my control, but how much of the world actively works against me to achieve these goals. Our culture is toxic when it comes to how we view, talk about, look at, and incorporate the female body. This is especially true when you consider media.

If you or someone you know is struggle with an eating disorder, please contact

Eating Disorder Information | The Center for Eating Disorders

or

NIMH » Eating Disorders: About More Than Food

Which brings me to Insatiable, a new movie debuting soon on Netflix starring Disney star Debbie Ryan, a girl that my girls grew up watching. As it has not yet debuted, I can’t speak about the movie itself. I can, however, talk about the trailer for the movie, which goes like this:

The MC is a fat girl who is bullied in school by her peers. She suffers a broken jaw, has her jaw wired shut and comes back from summer break newly thin, confident, and seeking revenge.

insataiableimage2

It takes a pretty standard approach to how women are portrayed in the media:

insatiableimage

1. Initially fat, the MC is ugly, rejected – a loser. And in order for Debbie Ryan to portray this character, she has to wear a fat suit. Because fat suits are funny, get it.

2. She goes away for the summer and can’t eat (because she was injured and has to have her jaw wired shut, also funny and definitely has never been done before), so she has the magical makeover. This magical makeover, which includes her losing a ton of weight, changes everything for her. Losing weight magically changes everything. Tada!

3. Now everyone loves her, she’s confident. She struts through those same hallways that she used to wish she could disappear from.

It does add the revenge fantasy twist, and who doesn’t love a good revenge fantasy? I would, except for what it takes for our main character to get to the revenge part. I’m so sick of the way we present and talk about fat bodies. I mean, I would love to get some revenge on some of the people who were awful to me in life, I am down with a good revenge fantasy. But this trailer is toxic in an already toxic culture in the way it presents the female body.

What if we changed the way we presented fat bodies in the media? Here are some suggestions.

1. Include fat bodies and not have the stories be about how fat they are or their weight loss journey. Let fat people just exist because, well, they do. We can tell stories about fat people without it ever being about their weight.

2. Don’t make being fat be the joke.

3. Abolish fat suits.

4. Don’t let fat be the ugly before and thin be the beautiful after. Fat people are beautiful. Thin people often aren’t. The size and shape of your body is not the end all, be all of who you are.

5. Let’s move away from physical transformation stories to personal transformation stories, stories that show characters learning and growing and choosing to be something new and different not in how they look, but in how they approach the world and their fellow human beings.

My daughters are at the ripe age for developing an eating disorder. The teens I work with are as well. In fact, my youngest was in Kindergarten the first time she came home and cried because someone had bullied her because she was “fat.” I’ve seen both of my girls stand in front of the mirrors, turn sideways, lift up their shirts and examine the size of their bellies. I’ve heard my black belt teenager talk about how big her thighs are, as if muscle is just as toxic as the fat our society has taught her to fear. Trust me, our kids are picking up on all kinds of messages when it comes to their bodies, both the explicit and the implicit ones. They pay attention to the unspoken as much as they do the spoken. That’s why even this trailer is harmful, it is reinforcing all of the negative messaging they are already receiving.

I’m not sure what the overall message of this movie is, though I do know that those involved in making it say it is a dark comedy that calls out the way our culture talks about the female body. I do not think this trailer does what they claim it does. I feel it fails and is toxic. I do know that the trailer for this movie is harmful in that it perpetuates those very things that those involved in making the movie say they are wishing to address. The trailer engages in fat shaming. The trailer does harm in that it reinforces the message that fat is ugly, thin is beautiful, and all you have to do to get thin is stop eating for a couple of months.

Do you know what happens when you stop eating or eat too little? Your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to thrive. Your hair thins. Your teeth decay. Your nails become brittle. Your skin does weird things. You sleep more. Your attitude and outlook on life changes. Your body starts to eat itself from the inside out. You will, eventually, die. Slowly at first, but then quickly.

As I mentioned in my introduction, those who develop eating disorders are never considered truly cured. They will spend a lifetime battling toxic body self-loathing, doing the work and then doing it again and again again. You don’t wake up one day and say, I’m done with this and I’m going to start eating normally and loving my body – tada! The work of healing is never done.

We have to change the way we talk about the female body in our world (and yes, men are body shamed and develop eating disorders at high rates as well). A great first step would be not making movies like this. It has the potential to trigger an eating disorder in a large number of pre-teen and teen girls who are already standing on the brink as they wrestle with what it means to inhabit a female body in this world. Insatiable is one Netflix movie that won’t be played in my house or any of my devices.

Sunday Reflections: Can Public Libraries Be Open to Hate and Be a Welcoming Place? A look at the recent pronouncement from the Office of Intellectual Freedom

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

Trigger Warning: This post discusses hate crimes and genocide.

tltbutton5

The day after the 2016 election, I walked into my Teen MakerSpace not sure what to expect. I personally had spent the entire night crying because as a woman who advocates regularly against sexual violence, I was gutted that our nation had just elected a self-professed sexual predator as its leader. To be honest, I’m never going to forgive any of us for that. Women, of course, were not the only group to be fearful of this election outcome as it was very clear that Donald Trump and his supporters were specifically advocating against the safety and civil rights of a variety of groups, including the LGBTQ population, people of color, the disabled, and Muslims.

So I walked into the space and there sat one of my LGBTQ teens and a handful of other teens. They started talking about the election results, as I knew they would. At one point, this teen looked the other group of teens right in the eyes and said, “Do you know what they want to do to me?” The GOP has been very vocal that they are anti-LGBTQ, and some members of the party even advocate for a process known as conversion therapy, which has been classified as torture by some human rights groups and is outlawed in several countries and in some states.

Library Meeting Rooms for All – Intellectual Freedom Blog

I have thought a lot about this girl and several of my other teens in the recent weeks as it was announced that the Office of Intellectual Freedom, a subdivision of the American Library Association, passed a resolution indicating that public libraries that have public meeting rooms must make those meeting rooms open and available to hate groups. I’m not sure what the impetus for this resolution was, but the specifically added the word “hate groups”, suggesting that hate groups are on equal footing as sports organizations and the local gardening club.

Since the 2016 election, there has been a documented increase in both hate speech and hate crimes against marginalized groups. We will all recall at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer was purposefully killed as she counter protested against a white supremacist group. Women wearing hijabs are having them forcibly removed on the street, Mexican men are being assaulted and told to return to their own country, and black people are having the police called on them regularly for merely existing in this world. And if you are a black person, you have a much higher chance of being killed by the police. There’s a lot of hate in our world right now and a lot of it is resulting in a violation of basic civil and human rights, and for marginalized people, it can be literally deadly.

Hate groups are different in that they specifically organize around their, well, hate and their goal is to oppress if not outright eliminate the object of their hate. The Nazis didn’t just want to sit around and talk about how much they hated Jewish people, they were in the process of practicing outright genocide. Now, the Office of Intellectual Freedom is telling public libraries that we must open our meeting room doors and allow these groups to come in and use our spaces to make their plans for genocide while the very people they are targeting browse for books or attend storytimes with their children in another part of the library. This doesn’t seem like it is just a free speech issue, it seems like it is a health and safety issue. And what does it mean if one group of people want to use their free speech to violate the civil rights of another group of people? What does it mean if they are literally making plans for a genocide?

On the one hand, I do believe they are technically and legally correct. By definition, free speech demands that we must allow all people to speak, even if it is speech that we disagree with. On the other hand, this is far more than a free speech issue, as it is a staff and patron safety issue. Remember, hate groups don’t just sit around and discuss unpopular opinions, they are actively working towards oppressing and, in a lot of cases, outright doing harm to the targets of their wrath. I don’t want to be at work on a day like Charlottesville where the white supremacists are meeting at my library and they start attacking the gay teen walking into the library.

I have been doing a lot of research and reading on this subject in the past week as I wrestled with what this declaration means and how I can reconcile it with my personal and professional ethics. I found this document which discusses extremist groups and public libraries which was produced by the Anti-Defamation League. It suggests that libraries that have rooms don’t have to open those rooms to the public or that you can be strict in the rules regarding your meeting room spaces, as long as you are consistent in how you apply your rules. The OIF made a follow-up statement stating the same thing, public libraries don’t have to make their meeting rooms open to the public but if you do, you must be consistently open to the public, including being open to hate groups.

You can also find a lot of good discussion about this recent OIF proclamation by following the hashtag #NoHateALA on Twitter.

Several years ago I had the honor of working beside a distinguished librarian. She was knowledgeable, service oriented, kind, professional, and a powerhouse. It was a time of great transition in our system and as the administration made a lot of decisions that she could not agree with, she was lucky in that she was able to resign and walk away stating, “this isn’t what I became a librarian to do.” The direction that library was taking no longer coincided with her personal and professional ethics so she made the hard decision to walk away. I have thought about her, too, in all of this and wondered if push came to shove, if I was asked to do something that would make me complicit to something which I fundamentally disagree with, would I be able to walk away. I have a mortgage to pay and children to feed, but I think all of us have to wrestle with where the line is for us personally and when we may have to walk away from a job or choose to violate our own personal or professional ethics. (FTR, I am not here talking anything about the current library system in which I work and that I love, I’m just considering the larger professional discussion here.)

I am not here today with answers. As I mentioned, I’m not sure what is the legal response in this situation. I know that this does cause great concern for me in terms of staff and patron safety, and I feel we have an obligation to that as well. Then there is simply the matter of morality. I do not want to be complicit to oppressing or harming others. I do not want to look back one day and realize a genocide has occurred and find myself on the wrong side of history. I think about this a lot both professionally and personally. I do believe we are a critical moment in history here and when we come out of it, I want to be able to say I stood up for what I believed was right and have my children be proud to see that I fought the good fight against hatred and oppression. I want to stand before my personal God and have him say that I followed his one golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What I do think needs to happen right now is that every public library should be talking to their boards and their legal counsel and training their staff. We need to have solid policies and procedures in place before we get the phone call from the local white nationalist group asking to use our spaces so that our staff knows what to say, who to refer to, etc. This is not the time to leave public services staff unaware and unprepared.

Sunday Reflections: Reproductive Rights ARE Teen Issues

tltbutton5

When I brought my teenage daughter into this world, I suffered from a horrific pregnancy ailment known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I would not, however, unfortunately know this fact until late into my second pregnancy, when I almost died. It was during this pregnancy that I stood at the edge of the abyss and looked death right in the eyes. It was also during this pregnancy that I learned that my baby was, in fact, already dying if not already dead. Unfortunately, because of a variety of laws that would have required me to wait a week to confirm that pregnancy was in fact no longer viable, I opted to have an abortion – which only required me to wait 24 hours – and save my life. There was a chance I could live another 24 hours, there was less of a chance that I would survive another week. I did the math, looked at my 4-year-old daughter and wondered what her life would be without a mother, and made a very hard by necessary decision for myself. I spent over a year being cared for my medical professionals to help fix some of the very real health issues created by that pregnancy.

I barely survived yet another pregnancy, which brought us the blessing of Thing 2. I was transferred into the care of a high risk ob/gyn who kept me alive by IVs and a medication cocktail that they give to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. I spent six months on bed rest and lost yet another year of my life to Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I can not ever get pregnant again as the chances that I will survive are quit negligible. It is imperative for me to never get pregnant again. Everyone in my house uses 3,000 forms of birth control to help make sure that I never get pregnant again and have to face life threatening complications. Pregnancy still kills women.

I am the proud mother to two young girls, one of which is a teenager. It is now known, thanks to scientific research, that Hyperemesis Gravidarum is genetic. So my beloved daughters live with the unfortunate knowledge that they, too, may suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It is imperative to their health and well being that they be able to have full bodily autonomy and be able to make their own health and reproductive decisions. They need access to affordable birth control. They need to be able to make the decision to end a pregnancy if it is killing them. And we are all too aware of how likely this is for them.

Upwards of 40% of teens will have sex in their teenage years. It doesn’t matter what adults think of this statistic or what adults want for teenagers, the fact is that many teens will and do have sex. Puberty begins around age 12, though earlier and later for many, and the body starts sending signals to their brains and sends hormones rushing through their bodies that make them think about sex – a lot. It’s new territory that they are trying to navigate and figure out. Even the teens that never have sex spend some time thinking about sex. Sex is just part of the teenage zeitgeist. Teenagers need access to accurate information about sex, sexuality, sexual health and more. They also need access to birth control and doctors that will help them make informed health decisions.

But reproductive health and access to birth control and, yes, even abortion isn’t just about sex. It’s about health. Many girls will have health issues related to their periods and reproductive organs and systems, and one way of helping them to deal with these health issues is by providing access to the correct birth control. Long periods, painful periods, endometriosis, PMDD – these are just a few of the very real health issues that women wrestle with that cause them to seek out birth control for reasons that have nothing to do with sex.

For my own personal reasons, I did not have sex until I was married in my early twenties. However, I started taking birth control in high school to help regulate a period that was causing me intense pain, profuse bleeding, and was greatly impacting my quality of life and my ability to function. As a teenager, I needed access to birth control for very real medical reasons. And I didn’t even know then about Hyperemesis Gravidarum and the impact it would have on my life.

Last week, Justice Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court, and those of us who support a woman’s bodily autonomy and a right to make her own medical decisions grew increasingly concerned. I come from a very religious background, I have a degree from a conservative Christian university in youth ministry. I am very aware of what certain parties think not only about abortion, but things like birth control and reproductive rights. I love a wide variety of single issue voters who are not even swayed by having watched me almost die. In fact, I have lost friends and family members who would rather have seen me die then support me in the decision to terminate a failing/failed pregnancy rather than die. I am all too aware of the perilous decisions that hang in the balance that effect a woman’s right to make informed health decisions.

But reproductive health and access to birth control isn’t just a health issue. It’s a religious freedom issue, because not all religions feel the same about birth control and abortion and they should have the right to exercise their religious beliefs. It’s an economic and class issue, because pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing are expensive endeavors that effect a woman’s professional growth and opportunities, earning power, and ability to support herself and her family. It’s a woman’s rights issue because some religions and some men want to use pregnancy as a means to keep women in a submissive and more “traditional” role as opposed to seeing them achieve equal rights with men. Reproductive rights is about far more then what happens inside a women’s uterus and it has far reaching impact on the future for each teen with a uterus.

I talk and tweet about reproductive rights issues frequently, because it has very personal implications for me, not just as a woman myself but as a parent to people with uteruses (uteri?). Also, as someone who advocate for teens, an average of 50% of which have uteruses, I care about reproductive rights. My personal beliefs and choices don’t matter when it comes to other people utersuses. Because I understand the challenges of pregnancy and parenthood, and the huge financial cost of both, I of course want teens to abstain from sex. But the reality is, many of them don’t. Many of them are being raised in families that have different views about teenage sex then I do, and I have to respect that as well. Whenever I talk about reproductive health and rights, I’m always called out and challenged. But here’s the deal: reproductive health and rights ARE in fact a teen issue. And just like every other issue, my job is to provide my patrons, my teens, access to a wide variety of correct, accurate and unbiased information to help teens make their own personal decisions about both sex and health.

And I will never stop advocating for a teens right to have access to correct information and to make their own decisions about their health and well being. I believe it is imperative for me as a teen advocate and information specialist to champion these rights for teens. And I don’t just do it because I feel that it is my professional duty (it is), a moral obligation (again, it is) or because I care about teens in general (I do), I do it also because I want my daughters to continue to have access to the tools and resources they need to control their own bodies, health, future and general well being. I want my daughters to live, and reproductive rights will help increase their odds.

Reproductive rights ARE teen issues.

Sunday Reflections: In Which The Teen Writes a Poem About Sexual Harassment

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST TALKS ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT

I know it’s been a rough week in a lot of ways for us all between the mix of politics and loss, but it was also a really rough week at the Jensen household because of everyone’s arch nemesis: sexual harassment.

tltbutton5

On Friday, I received a text from my daughter explaining how angry she was about the sexual harassment she had received by a “friend” the night before. This friend got into her sports bag and took an item of hers and put it on himself. She asked for it back repeatedly and he refused. Finally, she approached him to take it back and he proceeded to say some sexual things to her that she says made her feel “scared” and “dirty”.

They are 15 years old. And I’m sad to say that this is not the first time she has experienced some type of sexual touching or harassment. But it is the first time that she has come to me so visibly shaken and expressed feeling scared and dirty. Scared and dirty. Scared and dirty. Scared and dirty. I just keep hearing this over and over again.

This is what sexual harassment does.

As we talked about it and processed it and tried to determine what we were going to do, she shared with me that she was so upset about it that she wrote a poem. She has given me permission to share that poem.

Are you done yet

Undressing me with your eyes?

Are you happy

Now that you’ve made me cry?

 

You’ve stared at me

It’s felt like hours

You’ve smiled smugly

Enjoying your power

 

It’s like you can’t see it

My hatred that churns

You can’t see the effect

That makes my skin burn

 

You make me sick with fear

But I won’t say a thing

I’m far too afraid

Afraid of what it will bring

 

I’ll keep my hatred inside

Put on a pretty smile

You’ll never see me break

My tears will stay in for a while

During our discussion of how she felt about what happened, she kept saying she didn’t want to do anything about it. At one point I said to her,” I know you don’t want him to get into trouble but he also needs to know that he can’t do this to others going forward.” To which she replied, “I’m not worried about him getting into trouble, I’m scared he’ll be angry and hurt me.” That was the moment the undid me because I am far too aware of how often boys and men do respond with violence and retribution in these instances. She’s not wrong.

As a mom and a woman, I’ve been incredibly angry and upset about these events, as you can imagine. I’ve seen this all play out over and over and over again in this world and my anger is compounded by the fact that this is my baby girl we’re talking about.

I don’t have any fancy resolution to this post. I don’t have a neat and clean way to wrap this post up. The truth is, this will keep happening. It will happen again to her. It will happen to her younger sister. It will happen to her best friends and worst enemies. It will keep happening until we find a way to seriously address the issues in our culture that allow this to keep happening. And we have to stop shrugging this off and protecting the boys and men who do this. We have to talk about the patriarchy and power and privilege and toxic masculinity and sexism and why we choose to protect men instead of their victims. We have to change the dynamics. All of them.

Until then, I’m just going to be over here raging because I had to listen to my daughter talk about how someone who was supposedly her friend made her feel scared and dirty.

I’m pretty mad at you right now world. I seriously am.

Sunday Reflections: Where are the children?

tltbutton5

When she was two, The Teen and I were shopping at Sears when Things 2 suddenly disappeared. In a panic, I began running around the store calling for her. Each moment that she was missing the intensity of my panic increased. I ran. I screamed. I shouted. I searched.

Soon, recognizing my distress, others joined in on the search. The store itself was just about to shut it all down and call a Code Adam when we found Thing 2 hiding in one of the clothing racks.

I’ve thought about this story a lot in the past couple of days as news came out that our government had lost almost 1,500 children. I thought about this story as I read about how ICE agents were separating children from their parents as they crossed the border into our country seeking asylum. I thought about the panic that I felt. I thought about the fear. I thought about the growing anguish. Please note, although both of these reports are about issues relating to immigrant children, they are separate news stories. It should also be noted that not all of this has just recently started happening, some of the reports go back to 2015 and 2016.

As ICE separates children from parents at the border, public outrage grows

I think, too, of a friend of mine that just lost their adult son in their twenties. I think about the incredible grief that they are experiencing. About the ways that their lives have shut down. About the ways their life will never be the same.

US lost track of 1,500 undocumented children

I think about the long term effects of childhood trauma. Of all the teens that come and visit us in the Teen MakerSpace and just the ways that divorce or having a parent incarcerated has and will continue to effect them.

Trump on Abused Immigrant Children: “They’re Not Innocent”

And I think of what it must be like to be a parent trying to bring your children to a safer country. To a country where you hope that you can escape violence or dream of a future where your child can get an education, a job, a house with a wife and two cars and a garage. But when you arrive there, strangers rip your child from your arms. They place your children in cages that resemble dog kennels at the dog pound. And then they lose them.

Abusive Conditions for Women and Children in US Immigration

Reports have said that some of these children are being trafficked.

U.S. Placed Immigrant Children With Traffickers, Report Says

Other reports say that some of these children are being sexually assaulted.

ACLU Report: Detained Immigrant Children Subjected To Widespread Abuse by Border AGents

All of these children are being traumatized.

The Federal Government Lost 1,475 Immigrant Children | Teen Vogue

Whatever is happening, all of these children are being traumatized. I said it twice because it’s really important that we understand what we are doing to a generation of children.

Childhood Trauma : Long-Term Effects and Symptoms

This is not the first time in our country’s history that this has happened. During slavery, children were ripped from the arms of their parents and sold off as property. Native American children were taken from their parents on reservations and placed into boarding schools to “tame” them. Japanese Americans and their children were placed in concentration camps during World War II.

No, the idea that we can be cruel to children is not a new one to our nation, and yet I find myself stunned at the recent news. I routinely read about bias and how even as young as kindergarten and preschool our nation’s children who happen to be anything other than white can be singled out, disproportionately punished, called on to participate less frequently and more. I don’t want to romanticize how our country treats its children. I don’t want to act shocked or stunned that this is happening. History has shown us who we are and what we are capable of doing.

And yet, there is something about this story that takes us to a place that I can not fathom. I can not fathom as a mother or a Christian or as a compassionate human being how anyone can rationalize ripping a crying child from the arms of a screaming parent, placing them into a cage, and then . . . losing them. I can not imagine government agents handing children over to traffickers. I can not imagine anyone doing the various things that I have read that our government and its agents are in fact doing to children.

I can not fathom as someone who has spent their lives learning about the development of children and advocating for their well being how anyone in a position of power that is supposed to care about people, represent the people, and put policies into place that provide for the well being of our country can think anything about this is a good or acceptable idea. These policies and practices will scar a generation of children and we will be left to pick up the pieces.

And please, do not suggest to me that since these children are not American citizens that we don’t have some type of obligation to them. Children are the most vulnerable among us and we have an obligation to all of the world’s children to do the least harm possible to them. Whatever is happening in the world of adult politics, if we can’t even agree to do our very best to take care of children, then we have genuinely lost the plot. The very basic tenant of very basic humanity should be that we do everything we can to nurture and protect children. It’s not even a selfless act, to be honest, what happens to each generation of children effects the adults they will become and the future of not just them, but our country, of our world. They will soon be our doctors, our lawyers, our teachers and our policy makers. What we are doing has immediate and long term implications. It really is that dire.

The long term effects of childhood trauma include physical health issues, mental health issues, substance abuse, and troubles bonding and forming meaningful relationships. It shapes their view of self and their view of the world. It impacts who they are and who they will become. There is both a high human and dollar cost associated with childhood trauma.

I thought we had all agreed that at a bare minimum, we all had an obligation to the least of these, the most vulnerable among us, our children.

Today I am celebrating 23 years of marriage to The Mr. All together, we have been together for a quarter of a century. That’s a really long time. We have had some really rough moments: we lost a child in pregnancy, we lost a house to a flood and an economic crisis, we’ve lost friends and family members, and there are times when we didn’t know how we were going to feed our children and pay our bills, but at the end of the day, I get to come home to this lovely man and two amazing children whom I richly adore. I can’t imagine any of the things happening to my children that I have read about in the last two days. And as my heart celebrates my blessings, it also aches because I look at what my country is doing to someone else’s children and I am angry, afraid, and heartbroken.

Today I will celebrate with my family and snuggle my children. Somewhere else, there are parents who had their children taken away by the U.S. government and its agents and no one can tell them where those children are.

This can not be acceptable for any of us.

Sunday Reflections: This is what happened when the The Teen asked me if .gov websites were trustworthy

tltbutton5

I’m sitting in the Teen MakerSpace when my phone beeps and I see I have a text from The Teen:

“Are .gov websites trustworthy,” she asks.

And before responding, I pause.

In the past, I would have said yes without that pause. That’s one of the things I have always taught my teens, one of the first things you learn in library school, how to determine whether or not a webiste is authoratitive, biased, etc.

.Com is a commercial website, so you have to consider a lot of factors before deciding whether or not it’s a trustworthy source. Who is producing the site? What are their goals? What type of bias do they hold?

.Gov is a website produced by a government organization or agency. Those sites have always been considered reliable. They are full of facts and figures and data. WHO, the FDA, the EPA, the USDA, etc. – these are all government websites that get cited and used frequently and have been considered reliable – trustworthy – sources of information because they are produced by government agencies.

But after my brief pause, I answered The Teen’s question with a no. Government websites aren’t a trustworthy source of information in the year 2018 because data is being scrubbed, whole phrases are being banned, and a very anti-science bias is being pushed.

These are just a few of the discussions that you can find regarding this topic:

How Much Has ‘Climate Change’ Been Scrubbed From Federal Websites? A lot

Breast Cancer, LGBTQ Info Removed On Government Website

2017 Was a Big Year for Scrubbing Science from Government Websites

A webpage about lesbian and bisexual health was removed from US Government websites. This is a pattern.

These important pages have already been deleted from the White House Website

So I told her no; no having a .gov web address does not make an informational web resource trustworthy. And then I thought about the implications of what that means for us as a country: we can’t even trust our government websites to give us complete and accurate information. The very agencies that are tasked with keeping our water safe, our food safe, and protecting our health and well being, are being forced to remove and stop discussing the very information we need to keep us safe and informed because of the political agenda of people in power and those with enough money and political clout to influence them.

As a librarian who regularly works with the general public to find and evaluate information, I no longer feel comfortable telling the general public – even my own teenage daughter – that they can find a government website trustworthy while doing research for a report. Her question was, is a .gov website trusthworthy and the correct answer in the year 2018 is no. In a government that is supposed to be by the people and for the people, the fact that the answer is no should worry us all.

Sunday Reflections: Helping Our Teens Plan for an Uncertain Future, or, what about jobs?

tltbutton5

Yesterday I was driving when they announced on NPR that the unemployment rate had hit a new low of 3.9% and then they followed up that bit of news with the rejoinder that this was in part because many people had simply given up looking for jobs. The trouble is, many people will look at the number and think everything is fine, without paying attention to the caveat. I’ve been thinking a lot about jobs for a variety of reasons, one of which is that The Teen, now almost age 16, is being asked to start planning for her vocational adult life and it’s complicated.

I’ve also been thinking about jobs a lot because The Mr has been searching for a new job . . . for almost three years now. He actually loves the job he currently has, but while other managers are put on a rotating schedule he has been forced to work weekend thirds for the past six years, and as a family with school age children this means that we get to do exactly nothing as a family unless it’s the summer and we do the very delicate work of coordinating schedules. Also, working nights has proven to take a very real and personal toll on his health. The most recent job he applied for told him that they actually took the posting down after a mere 48 hours because they had almost 400 applicants in such a short amount of time that they were overwhelmed. The posting was supposed to be up for 2 weeks because they took it down in less than 48 hours because they had too many applicants.

The Mr and The Teen steal a rare moment together because he's not working at night or sleeping during the day.

The Mr and The Teen steal a rare moment together because he’s not working at night or sleeping during the day.

In 2011 the library that I was working with at that time laid off several staff workers, including a dear friend of mine. It took her 3 years to get a new job in the library field. Three long, hard years. She is happily employed now, but I will never forget the dark valley of unemployment that she walked through and the torment and toil it took for her to find a new job in a profession that she loved that is constantly shrinking and less willing to hire professional, full-time staff. I have several other friends currently looking for new librarian positions and the outlook isn’t proving any better for them.

So it’s not enough to look at an unemployment number, because there is more to the story. How many of those people are employed at full-time hours with a livable wage and benefits? How many people are underemployed and working multiple jobs? How many people have simply stopped looking? The economy and the health of our nation is about more than a simple number. As someone who currently works in a community with a high poverty rate, I see the stories that this number fails to tell you.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about jobs because, as I’ve mentioned, I work with teens and they are being asked daily to plan their vocational future. What will you be when you grow up is a more pressing question when you are just a couple of years, or even a few months, from being that grown up. The other week on Twitter I followed the hashtag #CILDC, which was a live tweeting of the professional conference Computers in Libraries. At one point several attendees tweeted this statement:

“42% of today’s workforce will be affected by automation within the next 10 years; 85% of jobs in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.”

Did you see that? 85% of the jobs in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. 2030 is a mere 12 years from now. That means that teens today are tasked with trying to plan for careers that don’t even exist yet. How do you plan for the unknown job market? Many of our teens are planning for careers that will cease to exist or radically change shortly after they enter the job market. That’s a huge task to ask of teens, and the librarians and educators who are tasked with helping them. We are being asked to help teens prepare for a future that is so radically unknown and by all accounts unknowable.

Don’t get me wrong, the future is always truly unknowable, but it does feel like were are living in a time with rapid change and incredible insecurity when it comes to career planning. And yes, we can look at other periods of time and see this happening. But the task seems daunting when you are in the process of filling out college applications and choosing majors. What if my field ceases to exist? It’s not a question I ever considered in my teen and young adult life, though I suppose I should have.

Random pic of The Teen because people like pictures in posts

Random pic of The Teen because people like pictures in posts

For me, even as a librarian, I have seen incredible change in my field in the last 25 years. In the beginning, there was considerable trust in and support for public libraries. But over time, we have culturally witnessed a slow shift away from public entities, especially if it involves using tax monies, and the idea of community good. Some parties have worked hard to instill a distrust in anything community natured while at the same time working to undermine things such as support for teachers, unions, and a wide variety of institutions and professions that were once seen as both necessary and beneficial. Every year librarians convene in state houses to beg for state support as the ALA and other organizations lobby members of Congress for national support. Every year librarians are asked to do more and more with less and less. And if you are a librarian who is searching for a job, you may have to be prepared to move great distances and start completely over because the professional jobs market appears to be shrinking.

It’s even worse if you are a librarian who wants to specialize in young adult/teen services. In the early 90s there was a tremendous push for and recognition of the need for YA librarians. Teens, we began to understand, were a unique age group with specialized developmental needs who deserved trained, dedicated staff who would meet their needs and help retain this age group as both present and future library users and supporters. But it turns out, teens in the library are challenging for some staff and when budget cuts need to be made, this is often the first place administrators will look. It doesn’t help that culturally, teens are often and easily reviled as difficult, abrasive, and rude so cutting teen services has far less impact then cutting things like children services; we still on the most basic level agree that we have a responsibility to take care of our children, and the younger and cuter they are the better. And don’t get me wrong, I love children of all ages and love being involved in children’s services, I just hate how expendable our culture views teenagers in comparison to the regard, esteem and responsibility we feel towards our younger citizens. Teens, although they are loathe to admit it, ARE still children who need nurturing, support, guidance, boundaries and more.

See, I like kids. Especially this one, because she's my other precious baby.

See, I like kids. Especially this one, because she’s my other precious baby.

So this idea of teens and jobs comes full circle. It’s both about the job of being a librarian who works with teens and about helping teens plan for an unknowable future.

So jobs, I’ve been thinking about them a lot. I currently know several highly regarded, passionate and experienced librarians who are looking for new jobs for a variety of reasons and the professional field out there is not pretty. Then I hear facts and figures like almost 400 people applied for a manager job in less then 48 hours. And then I hear the news that 85% of the jobs just 12 years from now do not currently exist. At the same time, I hear our country’s leaders celebrating a unemployment number that has an asterisk by it and see the teens in my community leaving to attend the daily community free meal and I can’t help but think, this is funny math.

A healthy economy and a healthy community is more than just a low unemployment rate and it’s hard for me to celebrate this report when I still see so many people around me sincerely and genuinely struggling to find good paying jobs that aren’t killing them emotionally and physically, that allow them to truly parent their children, and allows them to put food on the table with any sort of regularity.

How do we help our teens plan for such an uncertain future while they live in such unstable times? This is the question that haunts me.

Sunday Reflections: The Truly High Cost of Childhood Trauma

tltbutton5

I first ran across the research regarding the long term effects of childhood trauma last year, and have commented frequently on how important I think this research is. As someone who works with teens, and even though they don’t like being called children in many ways teens are in fact children, I have felt compelled to read as much as I can about the long term effects of childhood trauma. And, I suppose, as an adult and a parent who has lived with childhood trauma, I have been interested to learn as much as I can about it. As parents, the long term effects of childhood trauma can very much effect how we parent. It turns out that the sins of the father can in fact be generational, not because of familial curses or a retributive god, but because the effects of childhood trauma can be passed down from generation to generation.

9781524737757_fallinnocence_HC_JK.indd

I wrote about the long term effects of childhood trauma earlier this week in discussing THE FALL OF INNOCENCE by Jenny Torres Sanchez, a book that looks at a teen who suffered a traumatic event as a young child. She believes that she has learned to deal successfully with her trauma, but a variety of events that happen in high school illustrate that she clearly has not.

There is a huge emotional and mental burden that exists when we discuss the long term effects of childhood trauma. It can effect bonding and stability. It can mean the adaptation of unhealthy coping mechanisms which are then passed on to the next generation of children. But because I am writing this in America and America no longer seems to care about the emotional or physical or mental health of its citizens, not even its children, let me discuss the high cost of childhood trauma in terms that many Americans do seem to care about: cold hard cash.

Child abuse and neglect costs our nation $220 million every day. – Source: http://www.preventchildabuse.org/images/research/pcaa_cost_report_2012_gelles_perlman.pdf

Childhood trauma is wildly expensive, both immediately and in the long term. It’s not just expensive for the child or the family of the child, but it comes at a great cost to us all.

There is a high monetary expense that comes along with the long term effects of childhood trauma.

But first, let’s take a moment to discuss childhood trauma. Childhood trauma can occur in many ways: physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse or assault, divorce, observing parental domestic violence, loss of a home, natural disasters, food instability, sudden death of a parent or sibling, chronic illness, and chronic bullying are just a few sources of childhood trauma. Childhood trauma is an event that effects the emotional or physical well being of a child and effects their stress levels.

Of course not all children will respond to childhood trauma in the same ways. Personality is a factor, as is personal resilience. Children with more stable homes and supportive parents will have different responses to childhood trauma. When we talk about privilege, we must acknowledge that some children are more privileged than others and this privilege can help insulate them from the same traumas and impacts how they respond to said trauma. The point is, not all children will respond in the same way to the same trauma because no two children are the same.

So what, in fact, are some of the long term effects of childhood trauma?

Mental Health

Mental health issues can be caused by childhood trauma and can effect children long into their adult lives, especially if they do not have the resources necessary to help deal in effective ways with the childhood trauma. We know that 1 in 4 adults in America struggles with mental health issues, and there is a real financial cost for society that comes with these mental health issues. In particular, many adults who have experienced childhood trauma can experience PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Physical Health

Many adults who have experienced childhood trauma also have higher rates of obesity, eating disorders, and heart disease. In addition, many adults experience addiction, which we will discuss below. These physical effects all come with a cost.

Addiction

Addiction can also be caused by childhood trauma. As we wrestle here in America with the opioid crisis and we talk about doctors over prescribing pain killers, I think it is important that we acknowledge the role of mental health issues and self-medication in addiction. Back in 2006 when I had a very traumatic pregnancy that ended in a loss, I was prescribed a pain medication to help me with the physical pain that resulted. I was surprised when taking that medication also helped to dull the emotional pain that I was feeling and remember calling my cousin and saying, “You know, I understand now why people get addicted to this stuff.” I was in a very bad emotional place and that medication that I was prescribed really dulled that emotional pain, which is why I personally decided not to take it. But I had other factors in place that helped me through that difficult emotional time and helped me with the pain. I stood at the edge in that moment and realized how easy it would be to fall into substance abuse and addiction.

Incarceration

Reason studies indicate that there are high rates of sexual abuse among incarcerated individuals, especially incarcerated females. It is believed that the high rate and long term effects of sexual abuse among women is directly impacting the higher number of incarcerated females, and we know that there is a high societal cost to incarceration.

Job Instability

Mental health issues, addiction, low self-esteem and poor coping methods can all impact job stability. And high job turnover means higher training costs for businesses. And although I believe there are many factors that are contributing to the need for families to rely on housing and food assistance, including a lack of full-time jobs that pay a livable wage, I also believe that it is possible that one of the long term effects of childhood trauma is job instability, and it contributes to the need for government assistance.

I believe that we, as a society, should do everything we can to help decrease the amounts of childhood trauma happening. In addition, I believe that we should do everything we can to help our children deal with this trauma in healthy ways to help our children heal and develop healthy coping strategies. This would include seriously addressing issues like childhood hunger and health, including providing affordable health care, and improving every American’s quality of life by creating a country with more stable jobs that provide a truly livable wage. I believe that we should do this because it is the humane thing to do, because these are our children. But if that argument doesn’t work for you, I also believe we should do this because it saves us more money in the long term.

As a society we can choose to invest in public education, affordable healthcare, and creating systems where families can thrive and maintain a healthy work/life balance or we abandon our children now and pay in the future by funding prisons, watching our workforce dwindle to a handful of privileged few who have earned an education that can sustain our future, and having to find knee-jerk reactionary ways to handle things like the opioid crisis. One approach seems to make more sense than the other because it invests in healthy children and a healthy society. Investing in happy, healthy children today will minimize the amount of money we have to spend cleaning up our mess tomorrow. And clean up always seems to cost more than just doing the right thing from the beginning does.

Childhood trauma doesn’t just effect the child, or the immediate family of the child. It ripples out in both space and time causing a myriad of effects that have a lot of repercussions for society as a whole. When one part of the body is sick, the entire body is sick. When our children are sick, when they grow up to be sick adults, then we as a nation are sick. No man is an island; what happens to the most vulnerable of us happens to the whole of us. I can’t help but look around at our world today and see how truly sick we are, and I think one of our first steps in healing and finding true health has to be doing a better job of caring and providing for our children, not just because it is the humane and moral thing to do, but because all of society will benefit from it. If we don’t invest in the health and well being of our children now, we’ll just be paying for it in different and more negative ways in the future. I think we should chose health.

Sunday Reflections: What if we are our own worst enemies? A reflection on librarianship.

I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. And the enemy was in us.” – Platoon

tltbutton5

When I was a teen, I was obsessed with the movie Platoon, in large part because Charlie Sheen was one of my James Deans. Yes, I know it turns out that he was absolute trash, but we didn’t know it at the time. But because of this obsession, I had purchased the Platoon soundtrack – on vinyl thank you very much – and memorized the closing speech which contains the line above. The line above has always stuck with me and I keep thinking about it lately in terms of the MLS and the devaluing of libraries, in part through the devaluing of the library profession by none other than librarians. Hear me out.

Before I begin, let me just take a moment to say that I have the utmost respect for paraprofessionals. I myself started out as a paraprofessional YA associate before choosing to go on and get my MLS. Some of my best friends are paraprofessionals, including my best friend who happens to be a nondegreed director of a small, rural library. Our very own Amanda MacGregor, who is my most trusted reviewer and someone I go to frequently for advice and information, is not an MLS librarian, though I believe you all know I love, value and respect her fiercely. This is not a diatribe against paraprofessionals or anyone who works in the library; it is, however, a reflection on how we talk about the profession and the lingering effect it has and how people perceive the value of the library.

Time and time again, I hear many people talking as if the MLS no longer matters in any way, shape or form, and this concerns me. There is even, recently, a vote discussing whether or not the director of the ALA – the American LIBRARY Association – should hold an MLS. And I was surprised by how many people felt that this prerequisite was an obviously absurd idea. I feel quite differently about this; I believe that the director of the ALA should be a person who holds an MLS from an ALA certified school. To me, to forgo putting someone with an MLS as the director of the ALA would be like putting someone who doesn’t have a background in psychology in charge of the APA or someone who isn’t licensed in medicine in charge of the AMA. I want someone who has the education, knowledge and experience to be directing the organization.

But it’s not just about whether or not the director of the ALA should hold an MLS. More and more, I hear professional librarians talking as if the MLS education is completely unnecessary, and I would argue that this is harmful to our profession. What we say and do matters and transforms how people think about our profession. If we ourselves devalue our profession, than why shouldn’t our public, including community boards and legislators? I think of it somewhat as branding, and we are hurting our brand.

One of the last library systems I worked at went from having a staff of around 80 people and 12 MLS librarians to around 40 employees and only 2 MLS librarians. All specialists, including children’s librarians, were done away with. But of course, none of the services or programming were, so now fewer and less invested people are tasked with doing the same responsibilities. At another library, the retiring MLS director was replaced with the city’s marketing manager who had never worked in the library. The benefit is that the library gets a lot of good marketing, but the daily business of the library – it’s philosophy and foundations of the library in the community – was no longer at the core.

In contrast, at one system I worked at an individual from the business world was hired to be an operations manager, but this person worked closely with the library director, an experiences MLS librarian, to keep the foundations of librarianship at the center while blending those ideals with that of the business world to keep the library moving forward in terms of budgeting and HR practices.

But what happens when we start saying that librarians and librarianship aren’t really necessary in libraries? What happens when we devalue professional librarians? I would argue that those outside the library community see this and take that discussion one step further. If librarians aren’t important, if the education and experience isn’t important, then perhaps libraries themselves aren’t that important?

How many times have I, an MLS librarian, been asked if I am a volunteer? Too many too count. How many times have I been asked why I need a degree to do my job? Again, too many to count. The truth is, we don’t do a very good job of informing our public about what we do, why it matters, and why having educated and professional librarians involved in the library is important. And if it doesn’t really matter, then why should our communities support them with their tax monies?

Have you ever worked at a library where it has been suggested that staff could be let go and replaced by volunteers? I have, and it’s very disheartening. But I also think, we do this to ourselves in some ways. When staff are reduced, workloads are not reduced in kind. We replace retiring professionals with paraprofessionals to reduce staffing costs and the library is populated with fewer and fewer librarians. Sometimes, there are no professional librarians to be found.

This conversation gets tricky because not all libraries are the same. For example, there are a lot of small, rural libraries out there being well run by passionate paraprofessionals and a just a handful of staff to cover the circulation desk. You can not compare a small rural library with a large urban library system, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. But when even our largest library systems begin to do away with professional librarians, it definitely communicates a message to the larger public about the value of both librarians and libraries. And I would argue that this message is not in our favor.

These past few weeks we have seen public school teachers fighting for respect and pay that matches their job. We demand of our teachers a degree and hold them to a standard, and yet teachers are another maligned profession. We do not culturally value teachers, in part I would argue because it is seen as a feminized profession, much as librarianship is. But these past few weeks, teachers have united together and demanded to be fairly compensated for their work.

In comparison, I continue to see librarians degrading the profession in the ways that we talk about our field, in the ways that we don’t demand adequate compensation for our jobs, or the ways in which library directors eliminate professional staff and professional development when forced to make budget cuts.

As I mentioned, I was a paraprofessional before I became an MLS degree holding librarian. I have been dedicated and passionate about my job every step of the way. But getting my degree changed who I was as a librarian. My education really helped me understand so many aspects of both my job and my teens. It made me a better librarian.

The irony is that today, when I hear people say that they want to get their MLS, my knee jerk reaction is that I want to tell them not to do it. Not because I don’t believe in it, I think it has tremendous value and I think it helps establish us as a profession. No, I want to tell them not to do it because I understand that the job prospects for MLS librarians are shrinking. Libraries now hire fewer and fewer librarians, and we are often inadequately compensated salary wise for our level of education and experience. Many libraries now only want to hire degreed librarians in management positions, though it is hard for MLS librarians to get the experience required for those positions because we aren’t hiring librarians in non-management positions for them to get the necessary experience.

So yes, I would like the director of the American Library Association to hold an MLS degree from an ALA certified school. To me, that helps communicate the value of the library profession to the public that we serve. I would also, for the record, like the ALA to spend part of its financial resources marketing the idea of libraries to the general public in much the same way that you see the AMA marketing the medical field to the public. And for the record, I am not an ALA member because I can’t afford the fees.

But this post isn’t really about the director of the ALA, as I mentioned, I’m not an ALA member and I don’t get a vote. But what this post is, I hope, is a reflection on how I worry that we librarians have become our very own enemies when it comes to branding and marketing of libraries. If we continue to devalue the educational foundation of our profession, does that not in some way devalue the idea of libraries themselves? I would argue that it is possible that it does and we see that in the ways our boards ask us to replace full-time professional positions with 2 part-time paraprofessional positions and the ways in which our legislators slash our hours and our budgets.

The conversation is, of course, bigger than this post. For example, do we need age specialists? I would argue that we do. I know that my teens are better served because they have a librarian who has taken the time to study adolescent development, just as babies are better served by someone who has studied early childhood development. And of course, there is something to be said about paraprofessionals who have worked with and trained with good, quality librarians. And there is something to be said about how overwhelmingly white our profession is and about how in a profession dominated by women men rise to leadership positions faster and more often. These are all valid conversations that we need to be having.

My point is this: I would like us all to consider the ways that we talk about our profession, our education, our experiences, and the very concept of a library and to consider the ways in which we may be undermining our very own profession. I want us to consider whether or not we are being our own enemies and to make the changes necessary to be advocates instead.

Sunday Reflections: This is What Happened When I Took My Teen to See Love, Simon

tltbutton5

Last night I took The Teen and a friend to see Love, Simon, the movie based on Simon VS. The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I have never been in a movie where the audience whooped and hollered and audibly gasped and applauded so loudly. And it was a pretty full theater. It was an epic, joyous experience.

I also had a very profound and personal conversation with The Teen about this movie afterwards. And no, this is not a post where I will share with you that she came out to me, because if the movie taught me anything it’s that that information would not be mine to share. My revelation is about me.

But first, some background.

I became a Christian when I was in high school. I’m a 45-year-old woman who grew up right as the AIDS crisis was being discussed in the news. In all fronts of my life I was constantly being told that about the “gay agenda” and how abhorrent the gay lifestyle is.

I then went on to college and got my degree in youth ministry from a conservative Christian college, a Nazarene university. The Nazarenes consider themselves a “holiness” denomination. At the time I went to a Nazarene university you couldn’t go to the movies, you couldn’t dance, and The Mr had family members who wouldn’t even let cousins go swimming in the same pool because it was considered mixed bathing and inappropriate.

But I also found a safe sense of self and place in the conservative Christian church. I knew I belonged, I knew what I believed, and I knew I had a purpose. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere. I felt safe. I felt at some type of internal peace that I hadn’t known I was lacking.

This was all at the height of the Christian Evangelical movement. I only listened to Christian music, I went to Christian concerts, I frequented Christian bookstores. I often wrestled with what it meant as a teen librarian to give teens access to materials that were against my personal beliefs.

But I also began to notice a growing disconnect with the message of love I heard preached from the pulpit and the absolute anger, violence and hatred I heard spoken by my fellow Christians regarding marginalized groups, particularly the GLBTQ community. And as I my heart filled more and more with hate for the other, I felt less and less Christlike, and further away from my God.

At the same time, I had become friends with several members of the GLBTQ community, and couldn’t help but notice that they did not have this same level of hatred in their hearts. In fact, they were often more loving, more kind, and more accepting of others than my Christian peers. They seemed, in fact, more Christlike in that the way they lived their lives modeled more truly the lack of judgment, the lack of hate, the abundance of love that Jesus preaches over and over again in the Bible that my faith is supposed to be based on.

Slowly, over time, I began to believe that if we were to say that God loves, saves and forgives anyone, then that has to include everyone. And over time as my understanding of who I believe God is changed, I started to go to a more progressive church that better reflected my understanding of my faith.

But it came at a great cost.

I lost friends, family, and that very sense of place and security that had brought me out of some of the darkest places I had ever known. I had to start all over again, and in my 40s, and that was . . . hard, to say the least. Not as hard, of course, as it is to be a member of the GLBTQ community in a world that actively seeks to dehumanize you, but it was still amazingly hard.

So last night after Love, Simon, The Teen looked at me and asked me what I thought of the movie and I surprised even myself because I started crying as I explained my answer. You see, I really care about people, I really care about teens in particular. I have dedicated my life to serving and advocating for them in libraries this past 24+ years. It has been challenging and I have learned and grown a lot. But I am also in a state of constant tension regarding my beliefs.

I want teens to feel radically free to be themselves because I hate that identifying at GLBTQ puts a teen at a higher risk of suicide and homelessness because of how much our world hates them. I don’t want to in any way contribute to that. But I have also been taught for most of my adult life that to accept someone as GLBTQ is to lead them to sin and eternal damnation, and as someone who cares about them, I don’t want to contribute to that either. It often feels like no matter what I do or believe, I am hurting teens. That’s the power of indoctrination, it’s so very hard to shake.

I now identify as Methodist, a Christian denomination that is very much wrestling with the issue of being a member of and accepting members of the GLBTQ community. For the past few years, the church has been in a constant state of possible split over these very issues.

I explained all of this to The Teen in the best way I knew how: I’m a 45-year-old woman who grew up in a time where the GLBTQ lifestyle was completely demonized and I come from a conservative Christian background that is slowly changing as I come to better understand what it means to be a follower of Christ and to live in alignment with the simple commandment: Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.

I’m a work in progress. As a human. As a librarian. As a mother. As a friend. As a Christian.

I’ve lost a lot on this journey. I’ve gained a lot on this journey. The journey is just beginning, every evolving, never ending.

I’m trying to raise my children differently as Christians. I believe that they are more loving, more accepting, more Christlike. My prayer for them is that they will be.

But I’m not going to lie, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because there are those that tell me I am leading them to hell by raising them to be so loving, and as a parent that terrifies me.

I am glad that we went and saw Love, Simon, not just because it was a triumphant and joyous movie, but because it helped us to have a conversation I think we really needed to have about who I was, who I am becoming, and why it is sometimes so very hard for me to embrace things that are so much easier for her. I want her to know that the journey of faith isn’t a smooth, straight path, but a rocky one that is challenged again and again and that sometimes, you have to make hard decisions to stand up for what you believe in.

I also want her to know that I love her with a fierce passion and that I believe God does too, no matter what happens in this life.