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Woman says access to LGBTQ+ books at Ridgeland library helped her through childhood

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 10:46 PM CST
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RIDGELAND, Miss. (WLBT) - The soccer field is a place CJ Winship has seen a lot of success.

Winship was a star soccer player at Ridgeland High School and Mississippi State University. She was a goalkeeper and was a dominant force on the field.

However, in high school, when she wasn’t on the field, Winship often spent time inside the Ridgeland Public Library reading LGBTQ books.

”I kind of knew I was a little bit different growing up,” said Winship. “I didn’t have a word for it, or a label.”

She says those books helped her realize she was not alone in her feelings and that others like her existed.

”I could go in and I could read either self help books like non-fiction books that were written for people like me,” Winship recalled. “I could pick up a fiction book and find a character that I felt like I related to.”

But now, those same books that she helped her are now being threatened.

Earlier this week, Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee gave an ultimatum to the Madison County Library System: Either get rid of LGBTQ+ literature or not receive $110,000 worth of operational funds.

“This is a direct attack on LGBTQ+ youth,” Winship expressed. “Sometimes books like this are what keep those kids alive when it’s full of despair and darkness. You take those books away, you take that resource away, what do you have?”  

Winship believes that decision from the mayor is unconstitutional.

”I figure that move did come from someone who just honestly has no clue the depth of the decision he has made,” she said. This move prompted her to write an essay detailing how those books she read 14 years ago let her know that it was ok to be gay.

Winship is pushing back against the mayor’s ultimatum and said the books should not be removed.

”The first thing I want to see happen is that those books stay safely on those shelves,” said Winship. “Second thing I would like is for the mayor to release those funds back to the library with no strings attached. They’re not his funds to take.”

Mayor McGee tells 3 On Your Side he’s received complaints from citizens who were offended by the display of material, which led to him making the ultimatum.

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen’s next meeting is set to take place Tuesday, February 1, at 6 p.m. As of right now, discussing this item is not listed on the agenda.

Read Winship’s essay in its entirety below.

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