Published October 22, 2009
Visit most public school libraries and you'll find an array of books that address the subject of homosexuality. Many include sexually explicit content, and some even include graphic images.
But if you're looking for a book that refers to the possibility that homosexuality can be "reversed," a Chicago-based group says your best bet is the banned books list.
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) says there's an entire community of people across the world who say that their sexual orientation changed from gay to straight. But they're not getting their message out, the group says, because libraries across the country refuse to carry literature that describes these experiences or any studies that support them.
So a book like "My Genes Made Me Do It!: A Scientific Look at Sexual Orientation" — which argues that sexuality is shaped by a variety of factors, not just biological — can't get a spot on the school library shelf.
Neither can "You Don't Have to Be Gay," which describes author Jeff Konrad's struggle to overcome his unwanted same-sex attractions.
But "Baby Be-Bop," the coming-out story of a gay teen, which includes descriptions of his sexual encounters in bathroom stalls with men he never talks to, makes the stacks.
So does "Love & Sex: Ten Stories of Truth," which describes a gay teen's relationship with his tutor with excerpts like: "Matt had one leg locked between mine, so that his d—- was smashed between his stomach and my thigh. And as his hand jerked up and down on me his hips humped with the same rhythm."
Ask why the "ex-gay" books aren't making the cut, and the answers range.
Some say the books simply haven't been reviewed by the proper institutions; others say the idea the books promote — that homosexuality is a treatable condition — can be psychologically damaging to homosexuals.
PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs says the group just wants anyone struggling with unwanted same sex attractions to know all of the options available to them — but she says most schools won't even accept "ex-gay" materials free of charge.
"We offered the same books to Montgomery County, Maryland, and Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia. We e-mailed all publicly funded universities nationwide that have a GLBTQ center," Griggs told Foxnews.com.
"Our offer to donate ex-gay books and brochures, we were rejected by all."
Griggs said she'd hoped the American Library Association could help, so she asked the organization to issue a statement during Banned Books Week earlier this month urging schools not to ban "ex-gay" books.
"We would have appreciated even a statement from the ALA's director of intellectual freedom, Debra Caldwell-Stone, that ex-gay books are included in their diversity policy — instead, she said that the policy 'speaks for itself,'" Griggs said.
Calls from Foxnews.com to Caldwell-Stone were directed to American Library Association Media Relations Manager Macey Morales, who asked for more information about PFOX's allegations and then failed to return follow-up e-mails and phone calls.
The ALA's annual Banned Books Week is intended to draw attention to "the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States," according to the association's Web site.
The event also stresses the importance of the association's Library Bill of Rights, which states:
— Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
— Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
— Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
Griggs says the chairman of the ALA's Supervisors' Section of the American Association of School Librarians ignored that policy when PFOX tried donating "ex-gay" books to her school district in Virginia.
"Charlie Makela — who's also supervisor of library media services for Arlington County public schools — returned our books, saying 'we do not believe the books are appropriate for our high school collection,' Griggs said.
The district says the books were not rejected because of their point of view.
"APS accepts only those materials for which it can find professional reviews indicating that the materials are of good quality and appropriate for the age group served by the library in which they can be placed, and those that it can otherwise determine are of high quality and appropriate for the applicable age group," Superintendent Robert Smith said in a letter to PFOX.
Despite the graphic sexual content, Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos said "Love & Sex," "Baby Be-Bop" — and a host of other controversial books — "have been reviewed by publications that specialize in reviewing materials appropriate for the PreK-12 school environment." So, they're available to Arlington students.
Fairfax and Montgomery county schools did not respond to Foxnews.com's request for comment, but Griggs said they also rejected the donation of 'ex-gay' books, while a search of the Fairfax online library catalogue shows it too has "Love & Sex" and "Baby B-Bop" in its high school libraries.
Lambda Legal, which represented Metro DC Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in a lawsuit over Montgomery County's exclusion of "ex-gay" information in its sexual orientation health curriculum, says the schools reserve the right to make these choices.
According to the group, when a publicly funded school or university sets up a type of public forum — a bulletin board for students to place notices, a system for creating student groups, etc. — it generally cannot discriminate against a particular view because it is not endorsing it.
The school’s own speech — through its curriculum, administration, publications and even its LGBT support center — however, is “a choice the school makes,” Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg told Foxnews.com. "That's why schools in geography don't have to teach flat earth just because some people might support that."
Like the flat earth theory, Gorenberg says "ex-gay" materials are not in line with current science.
"All of the leading medical, therapeutic, psychiatric and social work organizations have a fair unanimity here about claims relating to the so-called ex-gay movement or so-called reparative therapy where the central idea is that these groups would like to try to change people's sexual orientation or gender identity, and the consensus is that it's unnecessary and damaging and can be severely harmful to people," she said.
Click here to see the American Medical Association's policy regarding sexual orientation.
Click here to see the American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report on Sexual Orientation and Adolescents.
Click here to see American Psychiatric Association Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation.
PFOX maintains that the comments from these organizations are not based in fact or science.
“They use terms like 'can' or 'may,' which is merely an opinion,” Griggs said.
“Most of these statements eminate from the gay divisions within those associations. These GLB sections have tried to get their respective associations to ban reparative therapy, but have been unsuccessful."
"The most they can do is issue statements like these discouraging any kind of change therapy while promoting gay affirming therapy.”
Griggs also says, as a woman with an ex-gay cousin and a gay son, her goal and that of the organization's is not to "cure" homosexuals. She says it is to promote tolerance of those who have left that lifestyle.
"It's almost an attack on us as an organization merely because we want to allow people to have all the information on both sides," Griggs said. "We aren't out there forcing people to do anything ... they have a right to know all of the facts to determine for themselves."
“Therapy is not the issue — tolerance is,” she added. “Expect more lawsuits nationwide.”