Do Not “Shelter” Children from Gay and Lesbian Parents

The Book That Scares Some Parents

Parents of children at Windridge Elementary School near Salt Lake City, Utah, are afraid. The focus of their worries is a sweet picture book by Patricia Polacco, “In My Mothers’ House.” The family that makes them fear for the future of their children has two loving mothers and three happy, adopted children.

A child took the book home. The mother complained. The school’s response is one I am familiar with from my years as a school librarian. A school committee told the librarian to restrict the book to children in grades 3 through 6 who brought a note from home.

That kind of appeasement never works, which is why I would not agree to it in the years I worked at every level of public-school education in Washington and New York states. It did not work in Utah either. When parents complained again, the committee voted 6-1 to keep the book in the collection but behind the counter.

For the immediate future, that is where the issue ends, with a book languishing in library purgatory in order to appease fearful parents. No one is truly satisfied. The parents would undoubtedly like the book removed from the catalog so no one can ask for it. Librarians and more liberal parents would like to have it on the shelves. Children with same-sex parents no longer have easy access to a book that shows a family like theirs.

Why I Retracted My Claws and Opted for Compassion

Before I read Patricia Polacco’s censored tale, “In My Mothers’ House,” I was ready to whip out my mother-bear claws and swipe away at the Utah parents for daring to ban a book about a family with same-sex parents. My Australian granddaughter has two mothers. I want her to find her own experience of family reflected in books and movies. I never want her to feel confusion or shame because her loving parents are lesbians.

That was yesterday. Today I read the book. When I came to the sweet ending, my ferocity softened. It softened because I recognized that my fears for my granddaughter have the same foundation as the Utah parents’ fears: love.

The Utah parents’ attitude toward my granddaughter and her family, as evidenced by their insistence the book be censored, is abhorrent to me. At the same time, I acknowledge their fervent wish that they could shelter their children in a stormy world.

Library Censorship Doesn’t Protect Children

My ferocity also softened because I used to be a children’s librarian. Every year I was called into the office to answer for some book or magazine parents wanted pulled from the collection.

Although occasionally the issue went all the way to the school board, I was never required to remove the offending item. That’s because I always knew the book or magazine was not the heart of the parents’ concerns. They loved their children and wanted to protect them from harm. They read the news, watched television, went to church, and worried.

They were good people who were very afraid. I spent a lot of time with them, listening to their fears and searching for ways to reassure them. Somehow we always found a path that allowed them enough comfort to keep the targeted material in the collection, without restrictions.

My hope for the children of Windridge Elementary School is that “In Our Mothers’ House” will return to the open shelves, where it can be just another sweet book about a loving family instead of an object of suspicion.

Winds of Change in Utah

That time may come soon. People in Utah are examining long-held misunderstandings and stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. When Moab, Utah, hosted Pride last year, about 500 people joined the “Visibility March” that kicked off the festival. In Salt Lake City last Sunday, the gay pride parade drew thousands of participants, including several hundred Mormons. When President Obama spoke in favor of marriage equality, Mormon and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (a Utah Democrat) came out publicly in support of same-sex unions.

I know I cannot protect my granddaughter from the hurt those Utah parents would inflict on her. Still, Bob Dylan’s song runs through my head as I write: “The times, they are a-changin’.”

And they are changing for the better.

Related Care2 Stories

“Gay Marriage Is Good” Say British Conservatives, US Republicans

Half of Americans Support Same-Sex Marriage

Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Falling Like Dominoes in Australia

Photo credits: Thinkstock


Callie Johnson
Callie Johnson4 years ago

@Lois, it's all a matter of understanding ancient cultures. Take the story of Tamar in Genesis, for example. She disguises herself as a prostitute, seduces her father-in-law and becomes pregnant by him, and for this God calls her a righteous woman. The culture at the time understood what a Levirate marriage was and understand the reason for her actions, but how many non-Orthodox Jewish people reading that story since that time understand it?

Lois E.
Lois E.4 years ago

Callie J:
Yes, I went to the site "gather" a homosexual site where their opinions are discussed, and found what they had to say about the story of Ruth and Naomi. Sad really, that they twisted the meaning of the Bible into what they wanted it to say. You need to read the whole chapter, which isn't very long, and well worth the time. If you had you'd know it's a love/respect story of a daughter in law for her mother in law. It is not perverted sex between two women as "gather' would have you believe. Naomi had Boaz marry Ruth, and raise children. It is one of the sweetest stories in the Bible. It is a shame that it is being represented wrongly by 'gather'.

Callie Johnson
Callie Johnson4 years ago

@Lois, here's an interesting commentary on the Ruth and Naomi story, which includes a detailed discussion of the customs of the era. Understanding these customs is important to better understand the stories in the Bible. This commentary details how very atypical the Ruth and Naomi story is compared to the status of women in that era, discusses arranged marriages, etc.

Lois E.
Lois E.4 years ago

Callie J wrote: "The following Bible verse is one woman speaking to another:
Ruth 1:16-1:17: And Ruth said (to Naomi), “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."

Callie J. Do you even know that the verses you quoted were not of two women in a homosexual relationship? It is silly that you'd use this as proof that the homosexual lifestyle is condoned in the Bible.. Before you do such a thing, and stick your neck out, my friend, you really should read before and after the verse you quoted, to get the jest of the what is being said. If you had, you'd known that this about how a young woman loves, and respects her mother in law.

There is no where in the Bible that condones the homosexual lifestyle, on the other hand, there are plenty of verses that do just the opposite..

Mary Mattarelli
Mary Mattarelli4 years ago

Live and let live.

Matt L.4 years ago

Considering the extra effort gay and lesbian people have to go to to have or adopt children, I'd personally wager they are likely better parents on average than the general population who sometimes have kids by accident whether they are ready or not. My only concern for children of LGBT couples is that they may be bullied more by bigots and their children, but there is NO evidence that gay people make worse parents.

Being offended by someone's else's lifestyle or physical differences is no reason to ban a book. Some people are racist or are offended by Jewish or Muslim or Hindu beliefs for example, but that hardly seems a reason to ban books about those families. Many Christians don't even believe the Bible is even referring to homosexuality in the often quoted passages anti-LGBT folks use. Especially considering that being gay/bi is NOT a choice, with lots of scientific evidence to back it up, banning a book like this seems more akin to racism. If you're offended by a book about families different than yours, it's not like you have to read it. Or better yet, confront your prejudice and try to get to know the people you are prejudiced against. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you'll likely discover they are not really that different than you. . .

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Callie, I understood your reasons, just found having to read yet more Bible versus not something I want to do. The topic here is one about morality and ethics, and spirituality really has nothing to do with it, unless you're a zealot like Lois.

I know I consider myself to be of both high moral character and one who has ethics. I am not homosexual, but consider it to be a difference of one's physical body the same as it is to have blonde hair vs. brown hair or dark skin vs. light skin and one is born one or the other. Yes, I could have dyed my blonde hair dark and gotten contacts to change my eyes from blue to brown but I still am blonde and blue-eyed beneath the "disguise". One can go "repent" at some church and say they won't be a "sinner" and will live as a heterosexual, but they still ARE homosexual, aren't they?

Suzy D.
Reverend Suzy D.4 years ago

I do wish people wouldn`t focus their spirituality on books. Just as you can`t learn biology, cooking, or engineering from a book, neither can you learn spirituality. Books can guide you, but if it doesn`t make sense against observed behaviour in the natural world, then the book needs serious editing, or needs to be rewritten completely ! And yes, there are everyday examples of homosexual behaviour in the natural world. Don`t worry. It doesn`t mean it`s compulsory !

Callie Johnson
Callie Johnson4 years ago

I feel very strongly about the importance of going right to the roots of prejudice against homosexuality – and misinterpretation of Bible verses is the base of much of this prejudice. Mistranslation of key passages, and misunderstanding of cultures 2000 – 4000 years before our time has created so much unnecessary suffering in our world. What we all need is better understanding of each other. (And that does include understanding that sometimes a bigot is just a bigot.)

Callie Johnson
Callie Johnson4 years ago

Diane L., conversations tend to go in various directions on these threads. Many people, like Lois, show up on discussions regarding homosexuality waving their Bible and using it as the basis of their discrimination against gays. These people simply don't know what they are talking about. I was quoting and discussing verses from the Bible in order to demonstrate they have no basis for their bigotry.