Seattle Public Library: make our libraries safe & welcoming for trans & nonbinary people!

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Many in Seattle's trans and nonbinary community now feel unsafe and unwelcome in our libraries, due to ongoing transphobic incidents at our libraries.  No significant changes have been made by Seattle Public Library to make libraries safer and welcoming to trans and nonbinary people.

The signers of this petition demand that Seattle Public Library's administration make significant changes to repair its reputation and relationship with the trans community.

Many in the trans/nonbinary community are reliant on our libraries due to the severe economic and social disadvantages they face.  30% of trans people have reported they have been homeless, and 29% of trans people are currently living in poverty.  This is even more elevated among black, indigenous, and young transgender people.

There have been many recent high-profile transphobic incidents at Seattle Public Library branches, and many more reported by trans people that have not made the press.

  • In 2017, Seattle Public Library denied a disabled trans person access to a gender-neutral restroom; this person was escorted out of the library by library security.
  • In 2019, Seattle Central Library booked an anti-trans hate group fundraiser at a library event space, and did not cancel the event despite the trans community's pleas.  A large protest was organized against this group and against SPL's continued lack of change to welcome the trans community.  
  • On Dec 31, 2019, a trans person was followed and threatened at knifepoint at a Capitol Hill Library restroom.  SPL made no statement addressing this incident, and has made no changes to make trans people safer.
  • On Jan 10, 2020, SPL administration announced they would keep the transphobic fundraiser's event at Seattle Central Library. 
  • The same week, New York City Public Library cancelled an event at their libraries by the same anti-trans hate speakers.  SPL chose to allow hate; NYCPL chose trans people's safety and dignity.

We request, at a minimum, the below actionable steps.  There must be a response from library administration with a commitment to develop plans to enact these policies by March 1, 2020.  These changes must be either enacted or have specific plans to implement them by July 1, 2020.  

  • CHANGE MEETING ROOM POLICIES to disallow future hate group meetings, especially hate group fundraising events.  Multnomah County Library in Portland has policies that disallow these events; the board can simply adopt these policies or policies from many other library systems that do not allow private groups' hate events.
  • UPDATE SOCIAL JUSTICE POLICY to include all other marginalized and protected groups identified by the City of Seattle; this includes trans and nonbinary people, other LGBTQ groups, women, and disabled people.  This policy currently only promotes social justice due to race, which is important, but insufficient.
  • HIRE A TRANS CONSULTANT immediately to develop specific changes to our libraries to become up-to-date on inclusiveness and equity for trans & nonbinary people.
  • CREATE A PERMANENT LIBRARY BOARD of trans and other marginalized peoples on intersectional inclusivity.  This board will advise library administration on patron feedback on trans/gender and other social justice incidents, advise on programming, advise on policies, and review library facility accessibility & safety.  This board will also keep up-to-date on social justice policies being adopted by other library systems, create new policies, and recommend adoption by Seattle Public Library board.  In lieu of a board, this can be full-time staff member(s), a department, or dedicated trans consultant(s), but must be paid.  Many library systems already have advisory boards to keep up-to-date with communities they serve.
  • TRAIN LIBRARY BOARD AND STAFF on trans/nonbinary inclusivity and social justice, as well as for other marginalized groups, and continue regular training on an ongoing basis.  The library board in particular needs to have extensive training on this topic.
  • CREATE INCLUSIVE AND EQUAL RESTROOMS FOR ALL by ensuring trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people have equal access to all-gender restrooms.  Currently, at least 13 library branches have no all-gender restrooms at all, and no branches have equal access to all-gender restrooms.  Starbucks HQ, Starbucks Reserve, Microsoft, KEXP, Frye Museum, Vera Project, PAX convention, Geek Girl Con, many University of Washington departments, among many other institutions and employers in Seattle, have adopted all-gender restrooms for all.  Seattle Public Library restroom safety is vital for our disadvantaged trans/nonbinary community, and it has been proven through past incidents that current restrooms are unsafe.
  • CLEARLY COMMUNICATE SAFETY AND ANTI-HARASSMENT GUIDELINES in every library branch, specifically against marginalized groups including trans people.  This signage should be simply stated, visible to all entering each library branch, and in multiple languages.
  • REQUIRE ALL NEW BOARD MEMBERS TO HAVE A SOCIAL JUSTICE BACKGROUND, including significant training or experience with trans/nonbinary social justice.
  • CREATE RESOURCES FOR TRANS/NONBINARY YOUTH, and address social justice for all intersecting marginalized youth communities.  In H1 2018, 72 out of 72 forced removals of children at our libraries involved black or latinx children.  Literally 100% of children removed from our libraries were towards black and latinx children.  This, along with trans/nonbinary youth welcoming and advocacy, must be specifically addressed.


The undersigned