Banned: 5 Books that Have Been Challenged for their Gay Content

First of all libraries don’t ban books. And when you take a look at some of these challenged titles you think, “Really?!” I mean, two male penguins that like each other and take care of a baby? What's not to love?
By the way this story book is based on an actual pair of gay penguins, (Roy and Simon at the Central Park Zoo) who were apparently stellar parents. Penguins have been documented as hanging out in single sex pairs since 1911; of course the paper was appropriately translated into Greek and suppressed: "Long-lost study reveals 'sexual depravity' in penguins"

They’re not alone

"They're in love. They're gay. They're penguins... And they're not alone."

The author of Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People is interviewed in "Nature Abhors a Category." She discusses the function of homosexual or bisexual behavior: the previous notion of “a competitive struggle among members of the same sex" may not be an accurate analysis. "Instead, homosexual behavior among both males and females suggests a larger survival strategy based on group cooperation and teamwork, which in turn are promoted by physical intimacy” We certainly see that among bonobos.

Jumbs and Kermit, two male Humboldt Penguins at a Kent zoo, were their "best parents yet."

There have been misguided attempts to re-educate/convert/scare straight: "Animal Nature"

Freedom to Read

All of that is irrelevant since banning books is against the notion of the freedom to read.  This American Libraries Association statement which determines American library policy is pretty much the last word on banning, censorship, and suppression; which is not to say that it never happens (from within and without bastions of freedom) making the defense of the freedom to read a constant battle: "Gay Penguins Banished"

The Freedom to Read Statement: Joint statement from the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities...are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label "controversial" views, to distribute lists of "objectionable" books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.
1. It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions...
2. It is contrary to the public interest for publishers or librarians to bar access to writings on the basis of the personal history or political affiliations of the author.
3. There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents...
4. It is not in the public interest to force a reader to accept the prejudgment of a label characterizing any expression or its author as subversive or dangerous.
5. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people's freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large...
6. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians to give full meaning to the freedom to read by providing books that enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression.
For full statement and list of endorsements, read "The Freedom to Read."

Books Under Attack

Books have been attacked for some pretty petty reasons. If we gave into censorship, the world would lose some literary masterpieces (and some less than brilliant specimens.)

In Justin Richardson's And Tango Makes Three two loving penguin parents happen to be male.

In Lesléa Newman's Heather Has Two Mommies, two mothers are too normal for the censors.

Norman Mailer defended William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch in its 1965 obscenity trial.

In Alice Walker's The Color Purple the censors objected to the homosexuality and I assume frank portrayal of rape and incest.

Walt Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior for publishing Leaves of Grass.

More Challenged Books

For a list of even more, check out my booklist 18 Books Challenged for their Gay Content.

Related Booklists

Books that help children understand liquid gender:  booklist 12 Transgender Books for Children: Be Who You Are

Related Resources

The True Colors Resource Guide offers an extensive array of resources across a wide range of sexual and gender minority youth issues: book lists, internet resources, fact sheets, tool kits, guide lines, pamphlets, posters, and FAQs regarding a variety of issues.

Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools is a first-of-its-kind resource providing a blueprint for safe, supportive and inclusive school environments for transgender youth.  The guide is written for administrators, teachers, parents, and other adults who work with youth, covering topics ranging from basic concepts of gender and the importance of affirming gender identity, to best practices for restroom access.



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