This PRIDE – Be an Ally

Shortly after my coworker, a youth services librarian, joined MCFL, we found ourselves chatting about identity and the workplace. Our conversation landed on the ways in which we celebrate who we are and what we believe. My coworker said that (and I’m paraphrasing here), he considered it part of his job to be himself because, historically, librarians like him felt pressure to suppress their identities. The outdated mode was to be quiet, in other words, erase or nullify one’s personality in service to those who may not align with more progressive views, since it was considered that too flamboyant or “open” an outlook might make some uncomfortable. Also, there were tangible repercussions to detracting from the status quo. I found myself nodding as he continued to explain, without any prompting on my part, his decision to embrace rather than avoid opportunities to celebrate his identity as a gay man and member of the LGBTQ+ community - in essence, to be himself.

Hearing him, I reflected upon the history of violence and oppression of those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. I thought about the immense courage it took to stand up to police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969, the inspiration behind the selection of June as Pride month today. And, as a person who does not identify as LGBTQ+, I considered how I might become a more active and better ally through suggestions I made to patrons at the desk, authors I selected for my book clubs, businesses I supported, ways I listened, what I read and watched, and how I spoke about subjects related to gender and sexuality. My coworker’s openness and passion encouraged me to learn more, listen better, further investigate my approach to the world, and think more critically about the media I consumed. In short, he and others like him have inspired me to be a better person.

An interesting thing happened, too, something that my coworker would not have known at the time and may still not know today. His openness inspired me to be more outspoken about myself. In that moment, I mostly listened to him. Inside, though, I considered ways that I might better stand up for what I believe and celebrate who I am. As a result, in conversations and casual interactions at the library, I found myself harnessing the courage to speak up about what made me “different,” too, a courage I regularly display at home and in my creative work as a writer. When necessary and while remaining respectful, I stepped in if a word or phrase troubled me. I posed subtle questions, presented definitions, and alternative approaches. I added my voice more overtly. His empowerment better empowered me.

Therefore, in honor of my coworker and this June’s Pride, I wanted to use this as an opportunity to say that I am a person living with bipolar disorder. Like the mental health awareness pin, green is my favorite color. May, the month we are just leaving and Mental Health Awareness Month, is special to me since it encourages me to reflect upon how far I have come in my journey.

And I’d wager that all of you reading identify with a community that makes you feel “different” or “other” at times, too, whether that part of your identity is central to or at the periphery of your day-to-day. That element might be your gender or sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, mental or physical ability, religious view, political affiliation, or otherwise and beyond. What is your month, or what makes you, well, you? We all have something that makes us different. Maybe you feel a particular affinity for Pride, which honors the history of activism done by and for the LGBTQ+ community among other things. Maybe you find yourself in various circles and part of more than a few diverse communities. Regardless, we are all better off when we may speak freely and openly if we choose and are encouraged to be proud of who we are in public and private ways. Feeling empowered to simply be empowers others to be themselves, too. This is the magic and thrill held within the call to become an ally, I think. Celebrating others who we may consider different from us in small and large ways uplifts an entire society.

While Pride honors the history of activism done by and for the LGBTQ+ community and mourns those lost to violence, hate, and HIV/AIDS, it is also a celebration of being in the face of intolerance and discrimination. Maybe you haven’t considered June to be “your” month before since you may not be a member of the community, but Pride can be yours to a degree. A major part of being an ally is the ability to empathize and believe that “issues related to oppression are everyone’s concern.” An ally acknowledges the history of brutality and violence faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, works to better understand and admit wrongs, and welcomes the celebration of achievements and innovations done by LGBTQ+ individuals.

Interested in developing your allyship with the LGBTQ+ community? Over the month of June, even if you are not part of the Pride community, you might work to become a better ally through participating in Pride.

Here are some ideas about how to celebrate Pride in the month of June:

Read past blogs written by MCFL community members like this one about last year’s Pride celebrations or this one that takes a closer look at a photograph and the history of mourning and loss inherent to Pride.

Since many current banned or challenged materials are those featuring LGBTQ+ characters, dealing with related subject matters and themes, and/or written by LGBTQ+ authors, checkout a book, movie or other item on a Pride-themed display at your local bookstore or a Marin County library, which may include some of these titles.

Explore curated lists and recommendations in our online catalog and other library apps and services such as Kanopy.

Attend an MCFL Pride-focused library event. For more information and to register online for events, please visit

Participate in San Francisco Pride or a greater Bay Area Pride event in-person or online.

Analyze your bookshelf and reading and/or viewing wish lists. Ask yourself: Have I enough LGBTQ+ representation in the queue?

Try to think critically about the media you consume; ask yourself what it might be implying (or not), who it might be representing (or not), and how it might be working to strengthen and uphold the right to self-expression (or not).

Be curious and ask questions but be respectful. If you make mistakes, correct your errors and move on.

Research less familiar or new terms and definitions through reliable sources of information such as university- or college-affiliated Resource Centers.

Be open to exploration and learning in general.

Finally, strive to overcome notions of tolerance and acceptance in favor of behaviors that uplift and more actively dismantle systems of oppression related to LGBTQ+ people. Feel empowered to be yourself, whatever that means and however shape that may take, and celebrate others doing the same.


Because we will all be better off for it. I know I am.

Have a rewarding, reflective, and safe Pride. Happy Pride, everyone!

For additional suggestions on how to become a better, stronger, more informed ally, visit this website and others like it.

Contributed by Sarah Broderick