In the past decade, the McAllen Public Library started adding books on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer topics and by LGBTQ authors to their collection and displayed them during Pride Month over the years. Then in 2016, the library took notice of what was happening around the Rio Grande Valley and was inspired to take action.

“We noticed more community events taking place for Pride Month,” Elizabeth Hollenbeck, reference department supervisor at the McAllen Public Library, said, “such as Pride in the Park, and thought there might be a chance for the library to partner with some local community organizations to offer something more than a book display.”

The library soon reached out to various community groups and organizations like the South Texas Equality Project, Valley AIDS Council, Aqui Estamos RGV, and South Texas Alliance Mentorship and Pride. That first Pride Month at the McAllen Public Library had presentations on RGV LGBTQ history, making long term LGBTQ relationships work, the intersections between immigration and the LGBTQ community, misogyny and biphobia in the LGBTQ community, and a workshop and open mic with Valley queer poets.

“[We] started a conversation about organizing some public presentations and workshops that were educational and also tied into the themes of literacy and reading,” Hollenbeck said. “That first Pride series proved to be a success, and we have maintained the valuable community partnerships and connections that help us to continue this new tradition year after year.”

The second installment in 2017 had a presentation for parents of LGBTQ tweens and teens, the first-ever South Texas Trans Town Hall, a look at Pride parades from around the world, a presentation by Neta about why media representation matters, and the introduction of the Lavender Literary League, a book club that centers literary works by and about the LGBTQ community.

“In last year’s Pride series, we launched the Lavender Literary League,” Hollenbeck said. “The books read each month cover a variety of topics and situations where members can learn about and explore different perspectives and challenges within the greater LGBTQIA+ community. This is one way the library is able to reach out to the LGBTQIA+ community in an ongoing basis while also helping people discover the joy of reading diverse literature.”

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This year’s third annual line-up starts with “A Look into the History of the Valley’s LGBTQ+ Community” with Gabriel Sanchez on June 13, and “Writing Autohistorias from Conocimiento” with the WAKE-UP! collective on June 19.

“The kick-off presentation for our Pride series will be led by Gabriel Sanchez who has conducted extensive research into the LGBTQ history of the RGV,” Hollenbeck said. “In fact, Gabriel’s research has contributed to the upcoming and much anticipated Pansy Pachanga documentary film in the works, a collaboration between One Scene Studios and Neta, so this talk is sure to be outstanding. We are also very excited to partner with the WAKE-UP! coalition for a creative writing workshop and literary exploration of self and identity. The session is open to everyone, writers and non-writers alike.”

In the second half of the month, the Pride Month series will continue with the “Lavender Literary League” on June 20, “Gloria Anzaldua: A Celebration of Literary Works, Life and Legacy” on June 26, and “Coming Out 101” on June 27.

“We’ll be celebrating the one year anniversary of the Lavender Literary League. We’ll be reading and discussing “Borderlands” by Gloria Anzaldua,” Hollenbeck said. “Gloria Anzaldua is such an important figure. We have also partnered with Professor Emmy Perez and Dr. Mariana Alessandri from UTRGV for a discussion and celebration of Anzaldua’s life, literary works, and legacy. And, last but not least, the final session to this year’s Pride series is ‘Coming Out 101,’ a presentation and panel of speakers organized by Maricela Ponce, Mental Health Counselor, and Jessica Hope Murph, of Beyond Boundaries Counseling RGV. This will be an educational and supportive session that will provide answers for many LGBTQ individuals who are wanting to come out, and for parents and families who want to learn how to be supportive.”

The McAllen Public Library Children’s Department will also have a special presentation on “Storytime: Love Makes A Family,” a storytime and craft session celebrating Pride Month for children and their families, on June 21.

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When the McAllen Public Library first started Pride Month, Hollenbeck was conscious that there could be some backlash, as a series like this had never been attempted before in a public library in the Valley.

“New things can sometimes come under attack,” Hollenbeck said. “From our perspective, we are simply doing what we do for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Poetry Month, Autism Awareness Month, and so on, which is to reach out to local organizations and form connections within the community for shared experiences that educate, enrich, and foster further exploration of our humanity. Each year for Pride, we’ve prepared for potential backlash, but the community has really surprised us with a ton of support overall, and that is very heartwarming to me. There is an occasional negative comment on social media, or a patron who questions why the library is involved with Pride. Our response is this: Pride Month is a celebration of the contributions that LGBTQIA+ individuals have made to history, culture, and society.”

Hollenbeck feels this is the best Pride Month series yet from the McAllen Public Library and that it showcases how far the library has come with their committment to LGBTQ awareness.

“McAllen Public Library has always been committed to diversity and inclusion in our collections and in our programming, and the Pride month programs definitely reflect that commitment,” Hollenbeck said. “The first Pride series helped put the library on the map as a welcoming and safe place for all.”

For more information on Pride Month visit McAllenLibrary.net

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