By Ben Briscoe

State contrasts national trend of increased requests to ban LGBT-themed children’s books from libraries

Karyn Drake, assistant manager of the Dallas Public Library on Oak Lawn shelves "And Tango Makes Three." This week, the children’s picture book about two male penguins who couple up to raise a baby penguin topped the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books in the nation for the second year in a row. – BEN BRISCOE/Dallas Voice

Requests to ban books dealing with homosexuality are on the rise across the nation but are declining in Texas, according to two recent reports.

From 2000 to 2005, homosexuality was the cause for 5 percent of book ban requests made by parents, faculty and community members nationally. While hard numbers for this past year are even harder to come by, the American Library Association’s Deborah Coldwell-Stone says the percentage is probably in the double digits now.

"From my personal experience, I can tell you we’ve see a substantial increase," she said. "We see these kinds of requests coming in from communities that are heavily conservative and have fundamental religious beliefs and are not afraid to push an agenda," Coldwell-Stone said. "They’re wanting to ban books about being gay and, heaven forbid, even ones that have gay characters. But sometimes it goes even farther than that."

Take for example "And Tango Makes Three." The book topped the list of the most challenged last year and this week was announced as the most challenged again this year.

The reason cited for the challenges, was that it promotes homosexual behavior. But the children’s picture book never even uses the word gay.

It’s a fictional work based on two real-life male penguins that raise an egg together in the New York City Zoo.

"It’s the parents who see all the evil in the book," Coldwell-Stone said. "It’s a shame because it really is a wonderful picture book. And kids reading it only see two penguins helping out a baby."

While the book is topping the list nationwide, only one of the 118 challenges in Texas in 2006-2007 was over "And Tango Makes Three." That one came in December 2006 from a parent of a kindergartner in Frisco Independent School District.

It was the only book challenged based on homosexual content in Texas for the year.

That’s a 64 percent drop in challenges based on LGBT content from the 2004-2005 school year.

Spokespeople for area libraries and local community leaders declined to comment when asked why there was such a drastic difference in statistics between Texas and the rest of the country. They said that they were unsure, and their answers would be mere speculation.

But Evan Cook, a Gay Straight Alliance sponsor in Dallas Independent School District, says regardless of why there is a difference, even limited bans are too many.

"As a teacher, I think it is good that kids can go to the library and look up what every they want and not have someone looking over their shoulders," he said.

Cook feels this is important to the development of students.

"A large goal of education is to let students hear about diverse lifestyles and explore the world and themselves," he said.

"Books like these are especially helpful to kids who already know that they are gay or are questioning. It lets you know, you’re not alone. Others are out their like you. No one should ever try to take that away."


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