JUSTIN HERE: I asked Carson to consider writing this post for this website after I had read the story he shares below on Facebook in early December. I met Carson in the middle of 2019 and after some brief chats he began volunteering at my previous library, Benson Memorial Library. From the first day Carson came into the library, he approached everything with a kindness, caring, and patience that I don’t see in many other people these days. When I had the chance to hire Carson before I left my last job, I jumped at the chance as I knew Carson would shine, grow, and bring some amazing things to this community. And he has and has even grow into a full time Adult Services Librarian role.
Carson’s personal story and his overall message of kindness, respect, and generosity is extremely inspiring. He’s the kind of person I am so thankful that is working in libraries these days. When I see what Carson does in libraries now and the kindness that he is spreading I can’t help but feel extremely optimistic about the future of these organisations that we work in. Thanks for being in my life Carson, thank you for sharing your words experiences, and thank you for doing what you do. I’ll stop talking now and turn it over to Carson.
I worked at a psychiatric center for a little over two years. While working there, I met thousands of different patients and was pretty well-liked. On one particular shift, there was an older woman who was highly irritable, becoming easily agitated by everything, constantly yelling at everyone to shut up, screaming expletives in people’s faces, etc. I very quickly befriended her, joked around with her, calmed her down and as a result she started to become more friendly and relaxed with everyone. So we spent the whole day sharing jokes, smiling, getting along pretty well. She told me I was her favorite staff member and that I truly made an impact on her life while staying at the hospital. Then, right after saying this to me, she overheard one of my coworkers on the phone with an admission call asking standard intake questions to find out the preferred pronouns/gender of the patient, “Does the patient identify as female/male?” Immediately turned to me, (not knowing that I’m transgender, as I do not disclose that to our patients), and said, “Oh for God’s sake! Did you hear that bullshit? Do you IDENTIFY as a man or a woman. If I had my way, I would take all of those transgender freaks and put them in a gas chamber. Clear them all out.” I said very calmly, “That’s not very nice,” and continued about my shift, with the harsh realization that a woman I had gone out of my way to care for all day would gladly have me killed if she knew that I was transgender, myself. Her absolute favorite staff member who “saved her life.”
But despite all of that, I put the same smile on my face and continued to give her the highest quality of care she needed day after day. She thought I was a great human and I treated her like she was one too. Now, if I had known she was transphobic and hateful beforehand, I would have treated her with the same amount of kindness as I did originally. If she knew that I was transgender before I started caring for her, I’m not sure that she would have been as receptive and kind towards me.
Nowadays, I work as a librarian at a rural public library. Yes, in some aspects my previous job and my current one are incredibly different. The library world is a lot more laid back and stress-free, compared to the intense, past-faced work environment of the hospital. But, as the days go by, I find myself realizing more and more similarities between the two. On any given day, I am meeting a handful of new people and interacting on a personal level with many different community members. Some of them visibly show their support for various political views— the Make America Great Again hats, confederate flag belt buckles, and the NRA logo proudly displayed on t-shirts. Organizations and beliefs that go against almost everything that I believe in. But, day after day, just like I did at the psychiatric center, I greet each one of them with the same enthusiasm and kindness that I would with anyone else. Older women tell me that my smiling face makes their day while they are checking out Donald Trump Jr.’s latest book, “Triggered,” that includes an entire chapter dedicated to spreading hateful rhetoric about transgender people. I hand them back the book that makes fun of my entire identity and tell them to have a great day and I mean it. I mean it because regardless of what their views are and regardless of how it affects me, personally, I always have the choice to spread kindness and hope that the patron feels inspired to treat others with that same respect. When I signed up to work in this rural area, I already knew that the vast majority of community members held widely conservative beliefs. I knew what I was getting myself into. I know that it is my job as a community figure, to never judge, to never discriminate, but to use all of the compassion and patience I have to hopefully instill some sense of empathy in our patrons no matter what books they are checking out.
When I came out as transgender, I knew that I would meet people who did not agree with what I was doing. People who would hate me before they ever got to know me. But, what I’ve always had a choice in, was how I treat others. By treating everyone I know with respect and generosity, I am able to find some middle ground almost immediately. I don’t need to know what your views are and you don’t need to know mine. You’re checking out a book, using a public library that was made for you, and I am so glad that you came here to utilize all of our amazing services. We never know what someone is going through, what they believe, who they identify as, what hateful things they think, but at the end of the day, if we treat everyone with kindness, respect, and empathy, it leaves no room for ignorance and hate. We are all just trying to do our best and exist— so let’s just leave it at that.