The Battle To Keep LGBT Children’s Books Away From Children Rages On

"Children that young don't have any business being faced with that type of book, unless they're in that type of family."

A debate is underway in Oklahoma City’s public libraries: Where to place children’s books with LGBT themes.

For the past decade, the Metropolitan Library System has put titles like Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate in a special, elevated section called “Family Talk,” along with books about drug addiction, sexual abuse and mental illness.

Kid with red book in the library. Looking at camera. He sits cross-legged on the floor. Dressed in a white t shirt and blue jeans

That was actually a compromise: Some commission members wanted to keep LGBT kid’s titles behind the library counter or banned outright.

“We didn’t want to have this material in a locked room,” manager Janet Brooks told The Oklahoman.

But a year after marriage equality, some LGBT Oklahomans are a little fed up and want queer kids’ books put in general circulation.

“Everything else on that list was a medical condition, a substance abuse issue—but you’ve got one class of people that are singled out,” says Troy Stevenson of Freedom Oklahoma. “It identifies the entire LGBT community with sex, and I think that’s the biggest problem.”

Not everyone has “evolved” on the issue, of course. Cynthia Trent, a former library commission member, wanted to pull the books altogether but says she’s come around to the “Family Talk” section.

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“It’s not because I have anything against those folks that have that kind of a lifestyle,” she insists.

“It’s that children that young don’t have any business being faced with that type of book, unless they’re in that type of family.”

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In 2008, commission member Ralph Bullard introduced an amendment that required the “Family Talk” section be at least five feet from the ground.

“When I came on the commission there was a lot of interest in the community that certain books were not really books that they thought children should be reading,” Bullard said.

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A former headmaster at a Christian school, Bullard also thinks LGBT books with LGBT themes should be banned from the children’s section.

“Just on a personal basis, I think that whole issues—and homosexuality and all the different versions its moved into, transgender and changing sexes and same-sex marriage and all those things that come from homosexuality and it being morally correct or immoral, is much more widespread now,” he explained. (Though maybe explained is the wrong word.)

Still, Bullard acknowledges, he doesn’t run the show.

“If I were at the library myself, I’d be more restrictive for sure, but it’s a public library and it’s reflecting the interests of the public that exists.”

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Stevenson agrees any book dealing with sex should be out of kids’ hands, “but to say the entire LGBT community is only defined by sex is clear discrimination. It denies us our humanity.”

He’s going to the next commission meeting on October 20 to ask them to take books like And Tango Makes Three out of the “Family Talk” section.

The issue is hardly exclusive to Oklahoma City, though: In big cities and small towns, from Texas to New Hampshire, parents and politicians have tried to move—or remove—kids titles with LGBT representation.

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For the most part, the librarians are pushing back.

“The inclusion of LGBTQ children’s materials in public libraries has long been an issue for our office,” American Library Association’s Kristin Pekoll told Kera News.

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Ironically, there are more LGBT titles for kids than ever—books that address a parent coming out, gender-nonconformity, and other topics.

Says Pekoll, “It’s important not only for the kids who identify with these books to see themselves in books, but it’s so important for everybody else to realize that this is part of our world.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery