Ex-gays protest book bannings

By KatherineGamby

A national advocacy group for the ex-gay community is fighting to get books, some describing gay-to-straight success stories, in libraries across the nation, including those on college campuses.

Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays is the organization that has been trying in vain to get books about the reversal of the homosexual lifestyle into public and college libraries nationwide.

“It’s not a question of treating because we don’t treat anybody,” said Regina Griggs, the executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays. “It is a question of should you have unwanted same-sex attractions; they are not genetic and there are alternatives.”

Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays is a national nonprofit organization that supports families, advocates for the ex-gay community and educates the public on sexual orientation. The organization serves as a support system for people with loved ones who are homosexual and for homosexuals seeking a heterosexual lifestyle. Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays says it views sexual orientation from a scientific and medical perspective and want the information to be readily available through the use of public libraries.

“What we’re finding when it comes to looking at the science and the medical side of this is that no one is supposed to know that science tells you [that] you’re really not born [homosexual],” Griggs said. “There is not a single replicated scientific study that will tell you that.”

Griggs, who has a child and other family members who are homosexual, said she wants the public to be allowed to access information on the health risks of being homosexual for a more rounded viewpoint.

In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 56,300 people were newly infected with HIV in 2006. More than half of the new infections occurred in gay or bisexual men, according to a CDC estimation. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays also said that the public should know that ex-Surgeon General Charles Everett Koop acknowledged that condoms provide some protection during anal sex, however, he said it is too risky to practice. Condoms are more likely to break during anal intercourse because of added stress and friction. Even if it doesn’t break, anal sex is still considered high risk because tissues in the rectum can tear and bleed, which allows germs to pass more easily from partner to partner, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays does not disclose government issued health information, but they do believe that it should be available to the public.

“[People should] know that if they’re unhappy, change is possible and more importantly know what the real health risks are,” Griggs said. “I find that upsetting that we can’t get this information to anybody.”

She said she felt as though the American Library Association has a hidden agenda for why they will allow some books like Baby Be-Bop, which chronicles the coming-out of a teen boy as opposed to You Don’t Have to Be Gay!, a story about a man’s struggle to overcome homosexuality. The American Library Association says it is unaware of the cause of why the books were denied.

“We don’t know, we don’t deny books,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, acting director for the Office for Intellectual Freedom. “ALA does not acquire books for libraries or tell libraries what books to acquire, that’s a decision made by each library in accordance with its collection development policies.”

She said the policy criteria includes the community and institution’s needs, the mission of the library, budget and shelf space, among other things. She said the American Library Association does not regulate library book flow.

“It’s a misconception; the ALA is a professional membership organization, but we are not the library police,” Caldwell-Stone said. “Our concern is when somebody asks the library to remove a book from the library after it’s already been judged to serve the community because they disapprove of the content of that book.”

She said there is a “system of challenges,” by which someone can petition to have a book removed from a library.

Caldwell-Stone said that she has received challenges on removing gay books from libraries, but it is quite the reverse with books about ex-gays. She also said that some of the books that Griggs said were banned from libraries were actually accepted, specifically in Wisconsin.

“I have never received any challenge to an ex-gay book in a library …  so we don’t see a need to address the issue because there haven’t been any challenges,” Caldwell-Stone said.

Columbia’s library is following the precedent of new book additions set by the American Library Association.

“We make no attempt to eliminate particular points of view,” said Arlie Sims, head of Reference and Instruction and coordinator of Staff Development for Columbia’s library. “For example, we might even purchase something that’s offensive to the vast majority of people because we’re not proponents of any content of what we purchase. We are providing it for study and consideration—it’s not about an agenda.”

Sims said Columbia’s library process for accepting books into the collection is not based on interest group donations or suggestions like those that Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays have offered to some public and college libraries throughout the country.

“[Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays] would call libraries and offer to provide books for free and then were surprised that the libraries would not accept them and put them into the collection,” Sims said.  “We would never use that as a collection development method … we wouldn’t accept donations from an interest group and then put them into the collection just because they’ve been donated.”