I was a gay teenager in the age of date due stamps
I wish being gay was a Taylor Swift song. In the mid-1990s when I was fifteen and listening to Alanis Morissette, growing up being gay was hard. I lived in a small western suburbs town at a time when Pauline Hanson made prejudice popular and my classmates thought being gay was something to be ashamed of. For me high school was a miserable little world where I felt like an X-File.
But I wasn’t rescued by Mulder and Scully. I was saved by my local public library. Their collection of short story books written for gay teenagers rescued me from an isolating adolescence and taught me about community. I summoned all the courage I had in taking those short story books to the loans desk to have them stamped with their due date. I would hide them between less ‘conspicuous’ items in the days before self-checkers made it easy to move in and out of the library, sharing its collections with anonymity. In 1996 at the loans desk of my local public library I had to face a real person, someone who would know I was reading books about being gay. And that was terrifying.
As a gay teenager in the age of date due stamps I found community not only in the books I read, but in the date due slips glued to their title pages. Those pieces of white paper stamped with black ink were like proof of life on Mars. They were how I knew I wasn’t the only one reading books like Hide & Seek: Stories about being young and gay/lesbian or Ready or Not: Stories about young adult sexuality. Everything I felt was being felt by other young women and other young men in my community. That is the difference my local public library made for me.
Our date due stamps didn’t survive the new millennium but as a gay teenager in the mid-1990s, before social media or television shows like Glee, the due dates I found stamped inside the covers of my library books gave me hope I wasn’t an X-File. I was just one due date on a slip stamped with many. Maybe knowing that was like a Taylor Swift song because knowing you’re not alone is sweeter than fiction.
-Anne Reddacliff @AMoodiLibrarian
Librarian; Event Officer ALIA Sydney
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