Little fuss this year over Orem displays of LGBTQ allyship
June may be coming to a close, but Orem City’s two most noticeable recognitions of Pride Month drew attention from residents and others throughout the month. For the Orem Public Library, the intrigue around the display goes back to 2021.
Last year’s display drew the attention of Terry Peterson, a city council member who wrote in a letter, “As a lifelong resident of Orem, I couldn’t be more disgusted or outraged. This is not the role of a tax-funded library.”
Those complaints were at the forefront for employees and supporters of the library as the month began — with question as to if it would affect the budget for the library.
According to Charlotte Crozier, the Orem Public Library director, worries about the budget were unfounded. Eventually, the city unanimously approved the budget.
A tweet by Emma Ramirez brought the attention of residents, city staff, outsiders and leaders from the Utah Library Association.
Ramirez, a former employee of the library who helped design the display last year, is currently studying library science at Dominican University and is in a graduate program in Divinity at McCormick Theological Seminary.
She posted her initial tweet, asking concerned citizens to email Crozier and members of the Orem City Council to show the strength of the queer community in Utah County.
“They claim to represent the city and that they are concerned by displays like this because they don’t represent the city in some way,” she told the Daily Herald, adding that she wanted to show there is a strong LGBT community in Orem.
Rather than having multiple displays of LGBTQ books, as they did in 2021, the Orem library this year opted to have a single display in the adult books section.
“Ultimately, the decision kind of factors in our desire to serve while addressing concerns, being mindful about concerns being brought up throughout the community and yet still offering the Pride display,” Crozier said.
While the Pride display will not be up year-round, the books will stay on the shelves. Crozier told the Daily Herald there was no effort to get them removed from the library, but Ramirez believes more should be done to show support for LGBTQ people.
“I’m not doing this because I think it’s politically correct or something that should be done for the sake of visibility. It can be life-giving and life-saving,” Ramirez said. “It’s not enough to just have books on the shelves, because what child in the closet with unsupportive parents is going to feel comfortable asking for queer books?”
The display, and Pride month as a whole, came after the state’s passing of House Bill 11, which bans transgender girls in public schools from competing in sports with others of their identified gender, and repeated social media posts from members of the Utah State Board of Education, namely Natalie Cline, targeting LGBT students from across the state. Cline, in 2021, reposted Peterson’s original compliant about the library.
Ramirez said the issues were “all connected,” and added that there has been a push across Utah and the wider United States to ban books featuring LGBTQ content and protagonists from schools and other libraries.
While the library’s Pride display could be found in one part of one government building, another display was posted and shared publicly online by the Orem Police Department, which updated its profile picture to an image containing rainbow colors and a sign reading “LGBTQ+ Pride Month.”
According to Chief Josh Adams, the decision was made with full awareness of the month’s history. Pride began as a celebration and anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots — a group of protests by the gay community in New York City after police raids of the Stonewall Inn. Since then, Gay Pride marches have taken place across the country and the Stonewall National Monument was established in 2016.
Adams said he wanted to make sure LGBTQ people in Orem know they will be protected by the city’s police.
“Our message to LGBTQ+ persons is the same message we wish any member of the community to hear: When a person asks OPD for assistance, we will ask about the nature of the call, where they are, and other pertinent information to understand how we can best help them. What we will not be asking are who they vote for, who they pray to, or who they love. The policies of Orem PD are based on standards (the law), and we understand the values (beliefs) of individual persons may not always be in harmony with standards,” he wrote in an email to the Daily Herald.
Residents also chimed in on the Facebook post, most of whom expressing joy and support for the department’s post. Adams added that the department does provide additional training on LGBTQ issues and sensitivity.
“Nevertheless, I believe our best training is our own interactions with members of every community. Experience provides for a more meaningful development than we gain exclusively through training. Overall, our department police officers have a better understanding and openness to LGBTQ+ persons. We love our LGBTQ+ police family and we are a better organization because they are with us,” Adams said.