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Laurie Has To Mar 'Mes'

by Jeremy Hooper

Speaking about the American Library Association's "Banned Books Week," a local columnist's endorsement of the event, and the supposed "danger" that the gay-themed tomes on the banned books list might have on the young psyche, our ol' pal Laurie Higgins spits forth the following:

In addition, [Chicago Tribune critic Julia Keller] fails to acknowledge that many of the most frequently challenged books are ones that affirm controversial ideas about homosexuality, and that many of those are picture books intended for very young audiences. The frequently challenged books Heather Has Two Mommies and King and King embody unproven ontological and moral claims that many parents consider radical, subversive, and perverse. The implicit claims are far too abstract and complex for the very young audience for whom these picture books are intended, which leaves just squishy, emotional non-arguments to shape the feelings of young children. I think this could reasonably be called propaganda. Books like these have the potential to affect how young children feel and think about homosexuality -- a subject that parents should not be compelled to discuss with their children at an age they consider too young.

For those who believe that homosexuality is not ontologically analogous to race and that volitional homosexual acts are profoundly immoral--as immoral, for example, as polyamory -- having their children exposed to positive images of or ideas about homosexuality represents a grave and presumptuous moral offense. Imagine this scenario: Parents discover that during library time, their child has chosen the book
Heather Has Two Mommies and Three Daddies or Heather Wishes She Knew and Could Be Raised by Her Biological Mommy and Daddy or Heather is Sad Because Daddy left Mommy So He Could Disfigure His Body and Wear Women's Clothes. Even better, imagine that a kindergarten teacher has read one of these books to a class unbeknown to parents. It's an interesting speculative exercise to guess who in this scenario the book banners would be. If Keller's arguments are valid, then no one need worry. Children will not become polyamorous from reading these books; nor will they come to believe that children are entitled to a mommy and a daddy; nor will they come to view "transgenderism" negatively. Moreover, "banning" these books will only make them more alluring.

Okay, first off (and obviously): Books like Heather Has Two Mommies and King and King "propagandize" nothing more than the idea that same-sex people and same-sex-headed families exist. Just like social conservatives are free to decry the Judy Blume books because they are too frank about teen Bbw Mockingbird Lg.Jpg-1development, they are also free to dislike pro-gay children's books. But they will not -- WILL NOT! -- position the mere acknowledgement of our lives and loves as "propaganda." If we gay folks had to grow up in a world filled with Cinderellas and Prince Charmings, they can deal with a handful of lil' bound tomes that speak to the realities of LGBT people.

Now, onto the three books Laurie suggests as part of her "speculative exercise." The problem with Laurie's little setup here is that she doesn't distinguish between positive, accepting, loving, inclusive titles, and nasty, harsh, discriminatory ones. She takes a joyous and throughly benign book, Heather Has Two Mommies, and pits it against titles that suggest adoption (hetero or homo) is wrong, that transgender men and women have "disfigured" their bodies, and that homosexuality should be directly compared to polyamory (the last of which is a bit different from the other two, with the offense lying in the unrelated connection more than the intimation of supposed ills). In Laurie's homo-hostile world, she probably sees no intellectual dishonesty or great offense in doing this. But for those of us who live amongst rather than against major swaths of the world's people, we see pure, unadulterated bigotry dripping from this offensive game.

Just play that other popular speculative game wherein you substitute the pro-gay concept (here a book) with one that advocates acceptance, or at the very least, tolerance, of any other group of people. Would Ms. Higgins be so bold as to make these kinds of comparisons if the group in question were one whose discrimination has become less acceptable in modern America? Absolutely not! She takes cover in the fact that gays are still all-too-persecuted. And rather than working to remedy the situation by supporting the existence of books that preach nothing more than basic tolerance (as opposed to all-out acceptance), she is further demonstrating why, exactly, it is so crucially important for books like these to stay on our public library's shelves!

But that being said: We actually don't have much of a problem with the existence of ANY book that makes a compelling argument. But the reason why so many socially conservative tomes (especially the ones that speak to gay issues) fail to gain embrace by libraries and the public at large is because they are most usually filled with lies, biases, and baseless discrimination. Libraries have a responsibility to host diverse viewpoints, but they do not have the responsibility to house irresponsible tomes that an author managed to get a niche publishing house to print despite its verifiable errors and beyond the pale claims! So Laurie has every right to pen a children's book called Heather Has Two Immoral Sinners, if she so chooses. And we support her right to market it as she well pleases. But we all know that such a book (the most logical social conservative counterpoint to HHTM) is never going to take hold in a major way. And that's not because of any supposed "liberal" bias, like our opposition would so predictably claim. Instead, it's because messages hold value and weight. And in this society, while we still have a looooooong way to go until we reach a day of peace, we have hit a tipping point in terms of the way our public marketplace, both economic and intellectual, views unscrupulous attacks on a minority group. The burden is on Laurie and her ilk to make such a book alluring enough to catch hold, and to fight its potential banning. We LGBT people have more than met the considerable tests that society mde us endure before we could reach our current, still-far-from perfect-yet-headed-in-the-right-direction literary day!

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Your thoughts

She also fails to acknowledge that children in Sunday School are already being taught about polyamory, and generally it is in an approving and even celebratory fashion. Why is she less concerned that the religiots are teaching such "perverse" topics, and only raises her hackles at the hypothetical? Perhaps because the farcical world that the morons live in, has their underutilized brains numbed to the actual real-world that they live in. And blinded to hatred that they are being taught.. or (in Laurie's case) that they are teaching.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Sep 29, 2009 2:44:30 PM

I don't see the logical consistency between condemning Higgins' two mean-spirited hypothetical books (anti-adoption and anti-transgender) and the polyamory one. While from a legal stand-point, the right-wing attempts to analogize same sex marriage with polyamory is flawed, in terms of respectfully representing different types of families, I don't see what's supposed to be wrong with a book a polyamorous family. *She* may be obliquely referencing her own flawed talking point, but *we* should not fall into the same trap of muddled reasoning.

Posted by: Alex | Sep 29, 2009 4:07:53 PM

Alex: I actually didn't condemn the polyamory book, merely questioned Laurie's claim that it should be directly compared to homosexuality.

But I certainly get your point, and had the same thoughts myself (in terms of the poly book being a diff. matter). I'll go add a parenthetical element to that line to add a bit of separation.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Sep 29, 2009 4:16:56 PM

Thank you for your intention to treat polyamory respectfully and for not letting our mutual opposition pit us against each other. I wish I could say that we polyamorists have been treated with as much respect by other GLBT leaders and spokespeople, especially those who focus on same-sex marriage, but quite a few have over the years taken the bait and distanced themselves from anything that would appear to be tolerant of multi-partner relationships.

I suppose we have Stanley Kurtz and his hogwash slippery slope argument to thank for this predicament. Regardless, I say that we are all in this together and should at such times treat each other with the respect we all want but often find so hard to come by. Even, dare I say, that we should be each other's supporters and allies? I've never heard anyone in the polyamory community say they are against same-sex marriage, quite the contrary.

Posted by: Anita Wagner | Sep 30, 2009 4:21:41 PM

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