The Online Citizen

Author Justin Richardson responds to NLB removing his book

Author Justin Richardson responds to NLB removing his book
July 14
12:11 2014

By Terry Xu

In the wake of the National Library Board removing and destroying the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three” from its shelves, TOC got in touch with one of the authors, Dr Justin Richardson and asked him for his views about the incident. We thank Dr Richardson for taking the time to reply to us.

As an author of the book, what did you expect readers to get out of the story?

We wrote “Tango” ten years ago with a few goals in mind. At the time, gay couples in America were just beginning to have or adopt children in large numbers. We wanted their children to have at least one book which showed a family like their own. We also wanted to help the parents of their classmates find an age-appropriate way to explain the fact of two-father and two-mother families to their children.

What is your response to the decision to withdraw the title from the library and to pulp the books?

The NLB’s decision to pulp our book sends a chilling message about the government’s attitude toward the freedom of expression in general and toward gay and lesbian people in particular.

Our book has been published in Japanese, Korean, Polish, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish and is available throughout the world. But this is the first time that a government agency has ever permanently removed it from a library.

There are two deeply troubling aspects to the ban. First is the underlying belief that the proper role of a library is to suppress ideas which the government finds objectionable. The thousands of protesters of the ban are not alone in believing that this kind of censorship is at odds with both the true purpose of a library and the essential human right to freely exchange ideas.

Equally troubling is the notion that our book would affect young readers in a negative way. Does the government believe that reading this true story will cause children to become gay? While the determinants of sexual orientation are not yet fully understood, there is no scientist who would argue that discovering the fact of homosexuality predisposes children to being gay.

Perhaps the concern is that reading this story might make children more likely to accept the gay people who they will undoubtedly encounter in life. Unless one believes that bias against gays actually prevents youth from becoming gay – a completely unsupportable claim – I can see no argument against developing an attitude of kindness towards our gay neighbours.

  • sharkAttack777

    There were no books about gays before and yet why are there so many supporters?

  • loquacialoon

    Sad. He just doesn’t get it.

    Books are being banned and pulped at the whim of a minority. Today these books with their slightly different spin on what family is, tomorrow many other books which some bigots find don’t support their own narrow views of the world.

    • J. Long

      Are you sure it is a “minority” as you claim? Just try to remember that even in small little Singapore, there’s still a lot of people. It is a frustrating issue, but it is perhaps a necessary hiccup for us all.

    • AurekBesh123

      Silent majority =/= minority. The fact of the matter is that most Singaporeans still find homosexuality distasteful, or are not personally homosexual and don’t really give a flying hoot about LGBT rights because it doesn’t concern them either way.

      These are the “heart truths”. So get used to it and stop living in the fantasy that everybody supports the LGBT hue and cry. That in itself, is a narrow view of the world.

      • Freespeecher

        I’m really tired of vocal people claiming to speak for the silent majority.

        The “heart truth” is that neither vocal lobby groups represent the majority, who are likely neutral, apathetic, and inclined to mind their own business.

        • AurekBesh123

          that’s exactly what i just said. on this issue, most Singaporeans are neutral, apathetic, and inclined to mind their own business.

          that means they, in all probability, weren’t joining in the raucous festivities at PinkDot 2014 or lambasting NLB a couple of days back, but minding their own business and getting on with their lives without some kind of anti-establishment chip on their shoulder.

          we are more in agreement on this than you realise. don’t automatically assume that just because we’re expressing our views online, we necessarily HAVE to disagree and be combative.

      • KayleeGan

        Arrogant, uneducated posts like these from AurekBesh is exactly why LGBT rights should be protected.

        They are not asking you to support them or find their sexual lives appealing. They would probably prefer to have an end to discrimination. And it hasnt exactly been a “fantasy” that they’ve been living in, I can tell you that.

        • AurekBesh123

          You will be surprised. Not everybody who opposes the LGBT movement is uneducated. Many are highly accomplished in society and are highly intelligent and educated.

          And therein lies the heart of the LGBT insecurity: they’ve been peddling the notion that all those who oppose the LGBT movement MUST BE uneducated, backwards, close-minded, or are religious zealots (or a combination thereof). The possibility that their opponents may be as educated, or even more educated, then what they fancy themselves to be, scares them.

          One more thing, not everybody who disagrees with you is a bigot. That in itself is a bigoted way of thinking.

  • Madison Chua

    You can’t just ban books and have them pulverised, just because you don’t like the contents.
    That’s the practice of a totalitarian society. These books must be restocked. Then let parents decide if their children should read them.

    • John Smith

      With all due respect, I feel that you’re missing the point here with your statement “That’s the practice of a totalitarian society”

      Firstly, this is a “conservative” practice, not “totalitarian”. There is a difference between “conservatism” and “totalitarianism”. I’ll leave you to check up the definitions yourself, because you’re probably more than capable to.

      Secondly, in a democratic society, whether a society is “conservative” or “liberal” depends on the choice of the majority of the voters. If the majority have a “conservative” outlook, regardless of whether they are silent or not, then it is the government’s prerogative to reflect this in its policies. Conversely, if the majority advocate “liberalism”, then the government should be more liberal.

      To put it across more succinctly, “liberals” want these books available. They believe society is better off if people decide how to lead their own lives. “Conservatives” don’t. They believe society is better off if people are controlled. Both are equally valid views. But the government has a duty to the majority of its voters.

      Which begs the question: Do Singaporeans support “conservatism”? Well, this will be answered in GE2016. And yes, pulverising is a bit extreme.

  • Tuesday Wang

    Very perceptive and succinct.

  • Eugene Chen

    Library Wars, here we go

  • Goeasy

    We should acknowledge reality by not censoring.

    We should respect others who hold different values and we should embrace the co-existence of such difference.

    However, ‘RESPECT’ and ‘EMBRACE The Difference’ do not equate to ‘ACCEPTANCE’.

    Therefore, while I have LGBT friends whom I respect for their choice and embrace their rights to their choices, I do not accept their values. It is my parental rights to coach my children what is right and wrong and I will not shy away from stating my stance (biased or not) on LGBT.

    I will nurture their capability to embrace different views. I will however not to shelter my children from knowing the reality of and existence of LGBT and certainly their own value system would / could eventually be different from mine as they will form internalise their own set of values and acceptance.

    While I support NLB’s move not to make the books readily available in the Children Section, pulping of books carry the totally different message of censorship and overkill.

    • KayleeGan

      You seem convinced that the LGBTs, as a segment of people, hold onto a bunch of values, that are different from yours. Could you clarify what the values are? I sincerely hope you do not classify sexual orientation itself as a value

  • Samson

    Why not just put a warning note and restriction of access on the books?