Censorship Hub




Virginia School Committee Votes Unanimously To Keep 'Two Boys Kissing' On Shelves

After a public hearing following a parent’s request to remove David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing from the Fauquier High School library in Virginia, a review committee voted unanimously to keep the book on school shelves.

Two_boysFauquier.com has more:

A large crowd upwards of fifty people gathered in the Falcon Room at FHS. About 24 people gave their opinions on the matter and about six letters were read from those who couldn’t attend the meeting, including one from the author of the book, David Levithan. The comments made at the hearing showed an even split in opinion…

FHS parent Jessica Wilson made an official complaint to remove the book from the school library on Feb. 7, because she believed that the cover of the book condoned public displays of affection, which are against school policy…

Marie Miller, a teacher at FHS and the advisor for the school publication The Falconer said… “If the focus of this book was on heterosexual teen relationships, it would not be the subject of a book challenge…

The committee included Judy Olson, a parent of an FHS student, Lauren Milburn, an administrator at Liberty High School, Emmett Bales, a teacher at FHS, Kim Ritter, a librarian at Kettle Run High School, Weiher and chaired by Fauquier County Public Library Director Marie Del Rosso.

While other parents said that the book’s repeated use of “the f-word” would make it an R-rated movie inaccessible to most high school age teens, a  LGBT-identified graduate from Fauquier’s public schools attested that books like Two Boys Kissing and The Perks of Being a Wallflower helped him feel less alone and more comfortable with his identity.

Levithan’s book (which we reviewed) was nominated for a 2013 The National Book Awards in Young People's Lit. The parent who lodged the initial complaint may still appeal the committee’s decision to the school board if she so chooses.


Virginia School District to Hold Public Hearing on Parent's Request To Pull 'Two Boys Kissing' from Library

A parent's request to remove David Levithan's novel Two Boys Kissing from a high school library has prompted a public hearing in a Virginia school district, Fauquier.com reports:

Two-boys-kissingFauquier County Public Schools has received a request from a parent to withdraw from student use the book “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan which is a part of the high schools’ library collections. A school committee at Fauquier High School decided to retain the book in its library collection, and the parent is appealing the decision to the superintendent.

In accordance with Policy 6-5.7, the associate superintendent is forming a review committee. On Wednesday, April 23 in the conference room of the school board office, the committee will consider the complainant’s request. From 1:30-3 p.m. the committee will interview the complainant and possibly others related to the decision to withdraw or retain the book. From 3-4 p.m. the committee will hold a public hearing during which time interested citizens may speak to the review committee concerning the subject. The committee will discuss its findings and render a decision on the same date. All proceedings on April 23 are open to the public.

Here's part of what our book critic Garth Greenwell said about the novel, which he called "ambitious, humane, [and] extraordinarily moving":

The wonder of Two Boys Kissing is that it seems entirely adequate to the world in which young gay people live today. It’s a world in which one boy can be embraced, even celebrated by his family, while his boyfriend is terrified of being found out by his parents. It’s a world in which young people can attend a gay prom and fall headily in love, and then find themselves confronting violence on their second date. And, most painfully, both for the reader and for the chorus of lost elders who speak to us, it’s a world in which gay young people still feel driven to commit violent acts against themselves.

But Levithan’s novel doesn’t just feel adequate to our present; it also—and, in my reading of LGBT literature for young people, uniquely—feels adequate to our past. Maybe Levithan’s most poignant theme is the relationship between young gay people and the generation that preceded them, a generation given voice to by the grieving, exulting, longing ghost chorus that speaks to us on every page.


Nebraska Student Poetry Champ Told He Can't Read Gay and Trans-Themed Poem on Public Television

Michael Barth, a student poet from Gordon-Rushville High School in Nebraska who won the Class C1 poetry division at the Nebraska School Activities Association with a poem that combined lyrics from Macklemore’s "Same Love" and a slam poem called "Swingset" by Andrea Gibson, has been asked to perform a different poem for an NET Television program because the NSAA says it does not want an LGBT agenda promoted, the Lincoln Journal Star reports:

BlanfordgreenThe request from NSAA has caused a firestorm in the high school speech community, which says it amounts to censorship. They have created a Facebook page called “Support Michael and Acceptance of Speech,” made numerous calls to NSAA officials to protest the request and alerted the news media.

NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green (pictured) said she decided to ask Barth to perform a different piece for the NET program because she doesn’t want the program to be seen as promoting an individualized agenda.

The NET show "Best of the Best" features winning performances from the state championship (but apparently not if they mention gay or gender identity themes).

NET Television is Nebraska's PBS and NPR affiliate.

Bridgeport speech coach Glen Lussetto, who describes himself to the paper as "about as conservative as they come in this speech community" said he speech does not contain profanity and promotes acceptance.

"Same Love" is, of course, the hit marriage equality anthem, and, "'Swingset' by Andrea Gibson is about a lesbian kindergarten teacher whose students wonder if she is male or female," according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Blanford-Green added:

“I don’t want the speech platform to be seen as pushing an individualized agenda. If we have the opportunity to promote speech in a positive light that doesn’t create controversy or debate about students, content, the activity of the NSAA – that drove my decision.”

Barth told the HuffPost:

"I was contacted on Sunday that I was selected for the Best of the Best showcase ... and we had to send them a physical copy of my speech. And they read through it and they declined it because the executive director of the NSAA believes that it was advocating transgender rights and that demographic of people. The real controversy is how they're seeing that in the poetry. My poetry program is not advocating gay rights or straight rights or transgender rights or anything like that. It's about love and accepting each other."

Students and supporters of Barth have created a Facebook support page which has 426 members and growing.

Here is Barth's poem.

UPDATE: Barth WILL be able to read his poem.

Via NET's Facebook page:

An NSAA decision to ask a Rushville, Nebraska student to change the poem he read during the state championships for a subsequent NET television broadcast has caused a storm of controversy. Michael Barth won the Class C-1 state award for his presentation of the poem with a gender identity theme. He was scheduled to perform it for the Best of the Best broadcast with other state champions before the NSAA asked him to choose another selection because they considered the original poem too controversial for a statewide audience.

David Feingold, NET's assistant general manager of content, says NET is prepared to broadcast whichever selection Barth chooses to perform during the taping of the program Thursday. 

“Michael Barth is this year’s NSAA Class C1 poetry champion. NET Television is ready to record Michael’s award winning presentation, as originally planned. When Michael comes to the studio tomorrow, we’ll record the performance of his choosing, and will be included in the completed Best of the Best program which will air on NET 1 on Sunday, April 20th, at 9:00 a.m. and rebroadcast on NET 2. The full program will also be available on line,” Feingold said.

NET News will interview NET General Manager Mark Leonard on the controversy at 4:30 pm CT on NET Radio this afternoon.

UPDATE II: Here's an interview with Barth.


Russian Group Tries To Ban Lesbian Film 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour'

Blue_is_the_warmest_color

Moscow's anti-gay group, the League of Safe Internet (LBI), has reported the lesbian film Blue Is the Warmest Colour to local prosecutors and the Russian ministry of culture for violating the Russian law banning "gay propaganda.” If LBI succeeds the film would have its license issued by the culture ministry revoked, prohibiting its distribution through TV and home video.

LBI executive director Denis Davydov told Russian daily Izvestia:

"The film has plenty of overtly pornographic scenes, which take up most of the screen time… [Two] women are engaged in lesbian sex, one of whom is a 15-year-old girl. The fact that the actress who plays her is over 18 doesn't matter. She could as well be 40. The audience views her as a minor."

The Guardian reports that even though Blue Is the Warmest Colour was:

“a critical hit at this year's Cannes film festival, where it became the first example of a Palme d'Or being awarded to both the director and its two lead actors… Julie Maroh, author of the award-winning 2010 graphic novel on which the film is based, described Kechiche's drama as "ridiculous" and branded it "porn”… [and] also expressed disappointment at the absence of lesbian actors from the adaptation.”


Arkansas Student Excluded from Yearbook for Being Gay Faces New Bullying from Peers, Teachers

Taylor_ellis

Over the past few days we've bee reporting on Taylor Ellis. Ellis's school, Sheridan High School is refusing to run a yearbook profile on Ellis because he's openly gay.

Chad_griffinThe disgusting censorship led to the Human Rights Campaign staging a rally at the Arkansas State Capitol demanding the school change its mind. Instead, the school administrators dug in their heels. Ellis's case is now drawing national attention and has been featured on CNN.

Sheridan School District Superintendent Brenda Haynes released a statement:

Haynes“We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook...It is clear that the adults who have the responsibility for the operation of the district have the obligation to make decisions which are consistent with the mission of our school. We have done so."

But what's happening back at school is even more disgusting. Ellis tells Slate:

T_ellisToday was my first day back [after a school trip]. People were talking about it while we were on our trip, texting all of us, making comments. I was about to lose it...

At first, everybody kept quiet. I’m in choir—that’s a good group. All the guys were nice. People were telling me I’m doing a good thing. My teacher said if I had any problems in any other classes I could just come back and sit in her room. … Geometry was fine, too. The teacher was fine with it; she understood and talked to me a little bit. She told me, “it’ll all pass, it’ll all be fine.” She’s a really good teacher. I don’t think she said anything negative to me.

[By] fifth period I was ready for the day to be over. All these people were negative, quiet—just weird.  I was ready to be home, just trying to get away from everything. Then I got in the Instagram page someone made that said “Sheridan School = No Gays.” I was looking at all the people [at Sheridan] who liked it and who followed it—people I don’t need to talk to. Three of them were in that class, sitting right across from the room from me.

A screenshot of the page, which is still live, is below. Ellis adds:

I asked [a few other students] why they were following this hate page [on Instagram]. And my teacher said, you don’t need to be talking about that in class. You need to go sit down. You have assignments to do. This teacher has never gotten onto me, never had a problem with me. But now she just kept saying stuff and I was just sitting there, shaking and crying. That’s what I do when I get mad—I shake and cry.

Stay strong. Taylor. We are with you.

Nogays


Gay Artist's HIV Awareness Billboard Censored In Japan For 'Indecency'

Murata_hiv_billboard

Last December, an HIV-awareness billboard commissioned from gay artist Poko Murata appeared in the Tokyo gay district of Shinjuku Ni-chome. The billboard — advertising the AIDS pharmaceutical company Viiv Healthcare — featured a ring of Japanese men alongside the text, "There are people living with and without HIV and we're all already living together."

In January, Murata received a complaint from the Shinjuku district office that his billboard was "contrary to public order and morality" because of one of the men in his ad was wearing only underwear. After re-drawing the man in a slightly unzipped pair of shorts, the office continued to complain because the man's underwear was still visible.

The artist himself considers the complaint "an obvious prejudice and discrimination against gays," especially considering that the district has numerous advertisements for straight bars featuring real-life women in skimpy underclothes. Journalist Dan Littauer also notes that the Tokyo police have arrested gay bookstore employees in the past for selling obscenity even though one can easily find similarly "obscene" books in hetero sex shops.

A clothed version of Murata's sign was placed over the original earlier this week.


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