Dec 28, 2008

Report from Louisiana: Gay Friendly Libraries Are in Danger

A children's book that features two princes who marry
has garnered outrage in a local Louisiana library.
Or why gay-themed books in libraries are in danger...

In Slidell, Louisiana, a patron complained that the Saint Tammany Parish Library should not make available gay-themed books to young people. You can read the story here.

Basically, a state representative is trying to write a bill banning public libraries in the state from having books with gay characters available to children and young people. In other words, a book cannot have two prince charmings in love with each other. Similar to this was a movement made by concerned citizens that Fontainebleau High School, also in Louisiana, should not have a gay/straight alliance (Read here What the ACLU has to say).

How absurd!? What is next? Gay teachers should be fired? Gay babysitters should be banned? Gay parents should not have kids? Gay priests should be excommunicated?

So does this mean, a sixth grader cannot check out Harry Potter from the shelf because Dumbledore is an old gay man?

The logic of the oppressor goes something like this: If a straight child reads a book that has a gay character then he or she will turn out to be gay.

People think gayness is some kind of disease - as if you can catch it like the common cold.

People think that being gay is okay as long as it does not rear its ugly head in their own towns and communities. Fine, be gay, just not around me, or my kids. Eve Sokofsky Sedgwick makes a similar comment in her essay, How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay."


It really annoys me that the general consensus is that gay people corrupt the youth. It does not help matters much either when the supreme pontiff of Christ's church seems to concur. Whatever happened to "Love covers a multiple of wrongs" or "Where Love is God himself is here" or the fact that Jesus never spoke out against the contemporary notion of identifying yourself as gay or straight because those categories did not exist in the same way they do today.

If a child knows that a book or a movie has a gay theme I really do not think it will make the child gay.

If a child begins to question their own sexuality because they read a book it is probably because the book stimulated the child's own inchoate understanding of himself or herself that they were never able to fully understand. Reading a book with gay characters can actually HELP children, not harm them.

If a child is straight, it should teach them tolerance and respect.

If a child is bisexual, it will certainly be helpful as well.

Being gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning about your sexuality is a very private and difficult matter. I think we should let the children decide how they want to deal with their issues, not a conservative, closed-minded, judgemental law that seeks to censor knowledge rather than promote it.

In my limited experience, and my own intuition, I think the message we are sending to young people is: "You can be gay but we don't want to hear about it. Be gay but stay in the closet."

Before I posted this blog I got some feedback from a gay teenager I know (who will remain anonymous). He told me he wished his community had a place for gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning and straight youth could meet and discuss issues. What is the problem with that I wonder?

I think young people want their privacy, but they want to also have the freedom to learn more about themselves without needless restrictions from myopic adults.

In fact, the public library may offer the most PRIVATE means by which a young person can understand him or herself better without risk of being ridiculed or ignored especially if they are not ready to talk about it yet.

Let us challenge this ignorant proposition and actually do something progressive for our children rather than listen to the same old troglodytes who roam this state.

2 comments:

  1. i think the point is not that gayness is not acquired or that it is discriminatory to ban gay books. the point is that gay is good and that gayness should not be tolerated, but celebrated as something that makes society better.

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  2. Great point, Rodolfo. To put your argument in another way: libraries ought to carry books with gay themes because it intrinsically makes society better to have books on LGBT issues. That is a powerful statement! I think libraries do carry books on LGBT because of the reason you point out. Books and other media about and including LGBT is part and parcel of a better society. Without gay characters, without LGBT peoples, society would diminish a bit. It is interesting that you make that claim because in a way it is certainly more provocative than the claim I make. It is certainly provocative to say that LGBT teachers should teach in our schools because LGBT teachers make schools a better place. What we are really saying, and what society does not always like to hear, is that LGBT teachers, etc., give back to society in a beneficial way.

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