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.