The American Library Association's (ALA) website reports that in 2008, its Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 513 "challenges." That is, "a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness." Topping the list for a third consecutive year is And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole. The children's book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins that coupled up and hatched an egg.
As Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA's office for intellectual freedom, told the Guardian:
Books that address same-sex parenting, or same-sex relationships, are particularly prone to challenges in the US ... In the case of And Tango Makes Three, there are many parents who believe it inappropriate to teach children anything at all about homosexual relationships, even in the form of a picture book about a true story.Anti-gay individuals and institutions, especially fundamentalists and their churches, argue that homosexuality is unnatural, that it is an aberration of God's design. But the simple and plain fact is, homosexuality is part of nature - examples abound.
Five years ago, a National Geographic News article read:
Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. So go the lyrics penned by U.S. songwriter Cole Porter. Porter, who first hit it big in the 1920s, wouldn't risk parading his homosexuality in public. In his day "the birds and the bees" generally meant only one thing—sex between a male and female. But, actually, some same-sex birds do do it. So do beetles, sheep, fruit bats, dolphins, and orangutans. Zoologists are discovering that homosexual and bisexual activity is not unknown within the animal kingdom.So if one believes, as they do, that God created nature, then there is nothing unnatural about gay penguins. Or humans. There goes a core justification for sustained bigotry!
I suspect that behind the irrational and sometimes violent reaction of this intolerant and hateful lot is the growing realization that the ideas they cling on to are patently false and man made. That the story they tell themselves and their children - that they are the righteous and chosen ones - is false. They are scared. Their world is under attack and is in danger of crumbling.
I get that. But there is a real world in which the rest of us live. A far better one that allows for diversity and deserves acceptance and compassion. If only they would choose to open their minds and hearts and listen to a better story.
May I suggest a book?
Image from the Official Blog of Marc Steiner.