Ex-Gay Books in Public Libraries: Dumb and Dumber

My friend Tania in the UK posted a link on my Facebook page about PFOX, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, and their insistence that ex-gay materials should be placed in public libraries.

According to the local NBC affiliate,

A Chicago-based group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays is urging libraries to carry literature about reformed homosexuals.

The national non-profit organization is arguing that the alleged successes of their “gay reversal” movement are not being heard because libraries refuse to carry their books, such as You Don’t Have to Be Gay and A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.

One has to wonder just what genre those books would fall under, exactly.

I am sure folks can think of a bunch of snarky responses. Acutally It doesn’t fit under any genre and the answer to the “debate” is a no-brainer. These books do not belong in public libraries. We are not talking about a political issue, although PFOX my be politically motivated in part. The ex-gay movement in the form of Exodus and groups like PFOX has inserted itself into various political causes including opposing employment non-discrimination measures in the US and UK as well has fighting against hate crime legislation that would include protections of individuals based on orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Such protections actually would benefit ex-gays who are gender non-conforming or who get harassed for being something other than purely heterosexual.

No, this is not about politics. It is about public health and safety. Those of us who consumed these books for years and bought into the ex-gay theories have suffered much harm. Our families have suffered harm. The damaging results include psychological, emotional and spiritual harm. We have suffered in our personal development, relationships and even in our career paths as we have diverted our lives to please family and friends who love us unconditionally, well except for one condition–we can’t be queer. For many of us we needed years to recover from the “cure.” No child or adult need to be exposed to these dodgy and dangerous teachings.

The APA just issued a LONG report about reparative therapy stating that it doesn’t work and most likely causes harm.

You can read more about the harm of ex-gay theories and treatments and read first-hand accounts of ex-gay survivors over at Beyond Ex-Gay. PFOX, which has very few actual ex-gay gays in its organization, should really rename itself Disgruntled Parents of Happy, Well-Adjusted Gays & Lesbians.


This post has 9 Comments

  1. Brian on October 25, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Hmmmm. This one is really hard for me because I really hate what those books say, but I also really hate censorship. When taking the public safety approach there is a thin line there…BTB did a series of articles discussing similarities between Ex-gay ministry and Scientology, and how both can be harmful…but would I support my library banning Dianetics? How far a step from that is there to banning the Bible or the Koran because it has been used to inspire violence?

  2. Michelle Galo on October 25, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Though I see where you’re coming from on the public safety issue, I do support public libraries carrying as much information as possible, even incorrect information from unreliable sources. I have a few reasons for this. One is that conservatives use similar arguments to support banning of queer-positive books and other material they disagree with, crying, “Think of the children!” And when I disagree with them, I don’t just disagree about which books should be banned. I disagree that any books should be banned from public libraries. One reason: I like the fact that I can use a public library to check out opposing viewpoints without giving money to organizations I disagree with.

    Information can be dangerous, it’s true. And yet I still believe that free access to information makes us stronger in the long run.

  3. Pliny on October 26, 2009 at 12:34 am

    I’ve got to agree. “The antidote to bad speech is more speech..” I say shelve ’em, but only next to a copy of Besen’s Anything but Straight.

  4. p2son on October 26, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Librarian Sarah Stumpf writes about the process by which librarians select to shelve books and why rejecting an ex-gay book makes sense based on how libraries operate. She writes,

    Central to PFOX’s arguement is the idea that libraries are censoring fiction and non-fiction books about ex-gays by refusing to buy them or even take donations. But libraries are not merely crap emporiums. We don’t have endless budgets or endless shelf space. Librarians don’t put every book ever made on our shelves. There is a reason why you need a masters degree to buy books for most public libraries. It is because picking books for a library is a very fine skill.

    She goes on to offer a rational and grounded explanation of how libraries work. Read her essay over at Bilerico Project.
    hat tip to my friend S. Issac for the link.

  5. p2son on October 26, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Most of the media has a decidedly heterosexual bias. Nearly every book, every pop song, every TV show, every sermon, goodness even salt and pepper shakers represent heterosexuality. Not that heterosexuals are not wonderful, but for a gay guy like me, I will mostly see heterosexuality presented as the idealized norm. Sure there are a few programs … Läs merthat include gay characters, but most do not. Most books in libraries, fiction and non-fiction give a positive representation of being straight. I find very few books that represent gay people.

    People get rewarded in our society for being heterosexual. I remember how the world treated me differently once I married a woman. Seems there is a lot of stuff already in libraries to support heterosexuality and very little to support the lives and relationships of lesbians and gays and virtually nothing to support and represent people who are gender variant, transgender and bisexual.

    If some gays and lesbians do not want to be gay or lesbian and partner with someone of the opposite sex, there is nothing stopping them but their ability to do so. If they want to live as straight people and enjoy the benefits of heterosexuality, they will get a warm embrace by most of society. But if they want to live their lives as an examples that gays and lesbians are wrong, sinful, deformed and dysfunctional that becomes a justice issue and one of public health and safety.

  6. Michelle Galo on October 27, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    You make a good point. My instinct is toward collecting and hoarding information, but it’s true that no library can stock everything, that selection is part of the system, and that perhaps information that is demonstrably, scientifically false should be among the first to be excluded. And that in collecting new information, the focus should be on finding the unheard voices.

  7. dan on October 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I also think Peterson makes a good point. I don’t know if i completely agree. But I think it is a decent argument.

    I think there are all sorts of unscientific books and literature in the public library. Even the fact that there is complete internet access available. I tend to fall on the side of Michelle’s original post, which was “I’d like to be able to get as much information (on both sides) as possible.” Helps one to understand completely.

  8. Grace on November 15, 2009 at 11:14 pm


    You are truly an ‘amazing’ mind.

  9. qbib on February 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I know this is an old thread and I don’t know what’s happened in a while. I just want to remind everyone of this:

    “A good library has something to offend everyone.”

    We collect everything that is GLBT related. If there are any discarded books to be had we want them.

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