It's 4th of July weekend, so I suppose this post should be all flag-waving and barbecue goodness. In my own way, it is. I want to talk about last week's ALA Annual Conference.
ALA is American Libraries Association, and their annual conference is huge, and by huge I mean I heard participant numbers of 19,000 (I suppose that includes vendors and workshop leaders). This year's conference in Chicago crackled with the energy of thousands of librarians, all fired up to defend the First Amendment and be part of the village that lifts up their patrons.
Now, before I continue with that, let me digress for a moment. Many, many years ago, I attended a seminar on leadership for women (I still have the cassette tapes). In one exercise, the leader asked us, what is the first thing you notice about a person when they enter a room?
We all got stuck on gender. Surely the first thing you notice is whether someone is male or female. (Please be aware here that she was talking about noticing, not judging. Kind of like when you notice a red dress in the shop window. You file it away in your brain as benign data.)
Actually, she said, researchers found that the first thing we notice is race. She was using this to illustrate how women, people of color, and women of color have to establish their credentials quickly, because strangers have already "catalogued" them in terms of race/gender bins.
I've never been afraid of other races, but I began to notice what I noticed about strangers. When someone walked into the room, I began to think, "Okay, *black/asian/whatever* person, different physical traits than mine, that's interesting, file it and move on."
Okay? Let's go back to ALA...
At this year's conference, I encountered a brand new world. There were people at the conference who did not conform to gender norms. While I'm okay with this, I found myself staring a little too long while my brain did the following:
Are they male or female? I need the data to put in the correct bin. No, I don't. They are human. That's the only bin I need. Oh dear, I've been staring. Stop looking at them. Well, don't look away like you've just been caught spying! Be cool, for Pete's sake.
So, my dear friends who are gender-fluid, please-oh-please accept my apologies while I acclimate my brain to its new data bins. I'm combining everything into "Plant", "Animal", "Human", and "Miscellaneous." It may take me a while to sort it all out. If I stare, just smile and say hi. I can always use more friends.
In the meantime, here's Earth Wind And Fire. Because you are a shining star, no matter who you are.
Have a safe and sane and happy 4th of July.
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