Do We Celebrate Diversity?
I submitted the following opinion piece to the Gresham Outlook in August of 1993. It wasn’t printed (no excerpts either). Because it reflects trends not just in my area but around the country, I’m including it here.
A few weeks ago, I entered Gresham’s Multnomah County Library, with my oldest daughter, a freshman at Barlow. As we walked in, there in the free literature rack, easily accessible to anyone, were multiple copies of two homosexual newspapers. On one cover were two lesbians passionately kissing each other on the mouth, with a block lettered message on a t-shirt: “WE RECRUIT.”
In addition to gay activity schedules, the newspapers contain homoerotic pictures and advertisements of people seeking sexual partners. “Druid Dyke, 40, Scorpio, loves Klingon sex.” “Gay male, college student on summer break looking for top guys good-looking, stud types like me.” “Portland, come on, give me that Call! Gay male 40, masculine, stocky, bearded, looking for a good time with younger guys 18+.” (Why do I have a feeling he doesn’t check ID?) The preference for “young” is often stated, and the advertisements are of sparsely clothed young men. Clearly, the most sought after sexual partners solicited in these papers are the young.
The newspapers also contain various 800 numbers promising to get you in touch with “other hot guys.” They contain pay-by-the-minute sex simulation 900 numbers (which you can call from anyone’s phone, and they’ll get the bill). The newspapers tell you where you can see homosexual X rated movies in Portland, and no doubt meet new friends. “All Boy’s Co,” advertised with a bare chested young man, is billed as “Oregon’s largest male escort service.” It promises to provide “stunning guys” as young as eighteen. (Am I missing something, or is this not-so-thinly-veiled prostitution—which last I checked was still illegal?)
I went to the librarian and calmly pointed out these materials to her. I was rational and nonaccusing. I explained I didn’t think this was the place to distribute such materials. Any library contains things we don’t agree with, of course, and that’s fine. But when it comes to distributing contact information for local sexual partners, it just seemed outside the scope of services of a tax-funded public library.
The librarian, a nice person, was uneasy, but assured me “we have to carry these newspapers,” though she didn’t explain why. She gave me a complaint form to fill out, which I did, in nonadversarial fashion. Just yesterday I got back my response from Ginnie Cooper, the Director of Libraries of Multnomah County. The response assures me “the publications you cite provide important community information for members of the gay and lesbian community and others that are interested in that community.” Also, “A library’s collection mirrors society.” Bottom line? Apparently the newspapers will continue to be regularly available at the library nearest you.
I’ve written six books myself, and I’m delighted at the diversity in our libraries. This is America. But the director’s statement, “A library’s collection mirrors society” isn’t entirely accurate, nor do I think we want it to be. Society contains racism, but the library doesn’t mirror it by circulating the Skin Head Monthly. Society has organizations of pedophiles like the Rene Guyon Society and the North American Man-Boy Love Association, but the library doesn’t make available child molesting literature complete with phone numbers. Society has drugs, but the library doesn’t tell you who to call if you want drugs in the Gresham/Portland area. Society has many people, both heterosexual and homosexual, looking for younger and more attractive sex partners, but our libraries have never felt compelled to assist them in linking up with these partners. Not until now.
I think back to myself and my friends growing up here thirty years ago, dropped off by our parents at the old Gresham library. I suppose they knew we could sneak a look at naked pygmies in National Geographic, but what would they have thought—what would we have thought—if the library made available to us printed materials containing specific sexual propositions from adults in the area, with phone numbers and mail boxes no less? Would curiosity have prompted us to look through such materials? Sure. (Yes, society has changed, but are the needs of children really much different?)
Having counseled teenagers, it breaks my heart to think of lonely confused young people, hungry for love and attention, paging through these newspapers. Flattered they are so clearly “wanted,” how many might go ahead and “make contact”? Does it really seem unlikely a curious or lonely young person might call the sex lines or “escort” services, or drop a note with their picture to one of the paid advertisers? Or that they might take a bus or drive down to the many advertised sex-centered establishments? Or that at very least an idea might be implanted that will be acted on later?
How many people who grew through periods of sexual identity confusion in adolescence might have taken a different path if at a vulnerable time they were given such literature and personal invitations? I know I sound old fashioned, but I think there are some things worse than being old fashioned. These include the sexual abuse of young people, sexually transmitted diseases, disturbed psycho-sexual development, and dying of AIDS.
I understand, of course, such newspapers exist, and anyone can pick one up in a gay bar. But most of us do not choose to send our children to gay bars. We do choose to send them to the Gresham library. As far as I know, the library doesn’t carry Hustler or child pornography. Perhaps this suggests that for the welfare of children there are other acts of self-restraint the library might take, including choosing not to distribute these newspapers. (If it’s argued these papers are intended for adults, at very least couldn’t the library carry only one copy which can’t be perused by kids?)
This isn’t just a homosexual issue. I’d also object to the library making available magazines with heteroerotic pictures, advertisements for “escorts,” 900 sex lines, and want ads for heterosexual sex partners. Surely these newspapers aren’t automatically appropriate just because they’re homosexual? Or is this what some people mean when they say homosexual rights end up being special rather than equal rights? A lot of us are trying to encourage our children not to go off into either homosexual or heterosexual relationships, with minors or adults. Some of us (I hope this isn’t too shocking or offensive) are actually encouraging our children to wait till marriage to have sex, and meanwhile not to feed their minds on movies and literature that titillate, seduce, and demean human beings, reducing them from subjects to mere sexual objects.
I am realistic, of course. Our children will see sexual propositions and telephone numbers scratched in restroom stalls. I just hope our libraries won’t eventually feel compelled to scratch in these numbers and invitations on the library’s walls, in the interests of “celebrating diversity” and “mirroring society.” Realistic parents know that in a free society there will be any number of people and groups, whether heterosexual or homosexual, wanting to sway and seduce our children. Still, many of us will not think it unreasonable that our tax funded county library refrain from volunteering to serve as a local distribution arm for such groups.
I realize that in the shadow of the new political correctness, which substitutes labeling and name-calling for intelligent dialogue, I will be dismissed by many as a moral dinosaur, a homophobic puritanical bigot, and a religious nut. But I’d like to ask just one question of those determined to follow political correctness to its ultimate embrace of any and all forms of diversity: If today our tax funded libraries must make available to our children newspapers that include persuasive articles, erotic pictures, sex simulation phone numbers, “escort” services and contact information specifically soliciting people as sex partners, what will they feel they must provide for our children tomorrow?