“Teen LGBTQ sex education” book is being challenged as pornography at library

Source: HAYLEY SPROUT/ HAYLEYSPROUT.com


Claire Taylor

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

Nov. 1—A book about growing up LGBTQ that’s located in the teen section of the Lafayette Parish public library has come under fire from the executive director of a conservative group, who said it and other books in the library contain pornography.

Michael Lunsford, executive director of the anti-tax government watchdog group Citizens for a New Louisiana, said he filed a complaint over “This Book is Gay” by James/ Juno Dawson. The book is a health and special studies publication about sexuality and growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

“This Book is Gay” is on a list of publications Lunsford said he got from MassResistance, a pro-family, anti-LGBTQ group that has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Referring to parts of the books as pornography, Lunsford said he doesn’t believe they should be in public libraries at all, but should at least be moved to another section so children can’t stumble upon them. Some of the books, he said, would be behind the counter at the seediest gas station.

“There’s an adult section on this kind of stuff,” he said. “Having it in the teen section bothers me.”

“This Book is Gay” is classified as a health and special studies publication for teens ages 14 and older, Madison Manuel of Lafayette said Sunday. It contains simple character depictions of a nude man and a nude woman.

Manuel, who has a degree in child and family studies and previously worked in the Lafayette Parish library system, briefly reviewed the books at Lunsford’s office Thursday. “This Book is Gay,” on the whole, he said, “is about queer experiences. It provides resources on protecting oneself, advises teens to wait until they’re ready and describes that kind of contact if one wants to pursue it.”

“I think that Mr. Lunsford chose two very, particularly in his mindset, salacious pages to create a controversy,” Manuel said.

In a recent meeting with Library Director Danny Gillane, outgoing library board President Douglas Palombo and board member Landon Boudreaux, Lunsford expressed concern about several books he said might not be appropriate, the library director said Friday. Gillane said he told Lunsford to complete and submit a Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form available on the library system’s website.

Lunsford filed only one objection, to “This Book is Gay,” but may object to others, he said.

A committee consisting of two library staff members and one board member will be appointed to review the challenged book, Gillane said. The committee, he said, may decide to remove the book from the library, reshelve it in a different collection or leave it where it is.

The most recent prior book challenge Gillane could find was filed in 2012, before the library had a collection development policy. Someone challenged “LA Candy” by Lauren Conrad.

Other books on Lunsford’s list include:

— “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg, recommended ages 7-10 years.

— “The V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex” by Amber J. Keyser, recommended ages 14 and up.

— “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew P. Smiler, recommended ages 9 and up.

— “Doing It Right: Making Smart, Safe, and Satisfying Choices About Sex” by Bronwen Pardes, recommended ages 14 and up.

— “Doing It!: Let’s Talk About Sex” by Hannah Witton, recommended ages 14-18.

— “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, classified for teens but located in the library’s graphic novel section.

Most or all of the books also are available through the Orleans Parish public library system and East Baton Rouge Parish public library system, according to online queries of their card catalogs, but not in the smaller library systems in Iberia and St. Martin parishes. Lunsford works in downtown Lafayette but is a resident of St. Martin Parish.

Parents in Gillette, Wyoming, challenged the presence of these and additional books in their libraries. One couple filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Office seeking to have librarians charged with obscenity. A local prosecutor said there wasn’t a case.

Obscene material is defined by Louisiana law as anything “which the trier of fact determines that the average person applying contemporary community standards would find, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, and which depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, hard core sexual conduct specifically defined in Paragraph (2) of this Subsection, and the work or thing taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

The crime of obscenity is intentional exposure, distribution or promotion of hard core sexual conduct, the law states.

Asked if what he is proposing is censorship, Lunsford replied, “There’s censoring and there’s buying. They literally spent money on these books. What books did they not buy? Is that censoring?”

Manuel said Lunsford seems to think the books are contributing to the delinquency of minors. All of the books Lunsford objects to are written for teens, especially those in their late teens.

“All describe how protect yourself, say don’t get your ideas about sex from porn, don’t feel pressured,” Manuel said. “But if you do have sex, here’s how protect yourself.”

Teens and young adults in Louisiana enter college without knowledge or preparedness for sex, Manuel said. The rates of sexually transmitted illness, including HIV, in Louisiana are some of the highest in the country, so the availability of these books to teens without parental permission provides them with information they’re not getting at home, information that may save their lives, he said.

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