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Douglas County library board unanimously votes against pulling four LGBTQ+ books

A months-long appeal process by a conservative men's Christian group comes to an end as four LGBTQ+ books will stay on DougCo library shelves.
Posted at 5:28 PM, Aug 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-24 16:59:48-04

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — The Douglas County Libraries Board voted unanimously Wednesday evening to keep four LGBTQ+ books on its shelves, ending a months-long appeals process started by the Christian political group Freedom Fathers.

The books in question were: "Jack of Hearts" by L.C. Rosen, "All Boys Aren’t Blue" by George M. Johnson, "This Book is Gay" by Juno Dawson, and "The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish" by Lil Miss Hot Mess.

The Freedom Fathers' founder said the books promote a "hyper-sexualized" narrative to children.

“I feel relieved that the trustees upheld the decisions of Library staff and acknowledged library staff's professionalism and expertise," said Jessica Fredrickson with the community group called Douglas County FReadom Defenders, whose stated purpose is to protect the right to read in schools and libraries.

"I am concerned about some of the comments made by trustees indicating a lack of understanding about how the library selects materials and censorship, and indicating a desire to revisit and potentially rewrite library policies.“

Sue Zloth, another representative of the FReadom Defenders, told Denver7 before the vote that the group appealing the books "thought they could come in under the radar."

Denver7 contacted Aaron Wood, founder of the "Freedom Fathers" Facebook page and the man who filed the appeal against the Douglas County Libraries months ago to remove these books from its shelves, as well as others who have spoken out in favor of pulling the books.

None returned our request for comment by deadline.

Of the books currently filed in the Adult Section ("Jack of Hearts," "All Boys Aren't Blue" and "This Book is Gay"), Wood wrote similar critiques in his applications to appeal the books.

"The book explores alternate gender ideologies and controversial racial commentary, which do not align with family friendly community beliefs of values. These themes and topics are not suitable for minors and are not appropriate for a public library to carry," said Wood's written appeal, which went on to say, "The library should not be a platform of protest and activism, which is what is seen with this hyper-sexualized material aimed at advancing this narrative to expose children to sexual content and gender dysphoria at earlier and earlier ages in life."

Of the one children's book in the complaint ("The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish"), Wood wrote, "The narrative of promoting the destructive homosexual lifestyle of transvestite strippers to children is a cruel means of hardening children's hearts and taking away their innocence in an attempt to appease a significantly small percentage of the population."

Denver7 asked Douglas County Libraries executive director Bob Pasicznyuk about the board's process in considering an appeal.

He said it's not the board's place to express opinion on commentaries about the LGBTQ+ community like those included in Wood's appeal.

"[Wood's use of the term 'destructive homosexual lifestyle'] is not an item which I can opine on," Pasicznyuk said. "It's outside the boundaries of what we, as a public library, would make a judgment about."

Douglas County library board considering ban on four LGBTQ books

Factors taken into consideration are how many time customers are checking out the book, if the book is widely distributed, and professional reviews and recommendations about the books. Many of the books have circulated dozens of times since being added to the catalog.

The first time Wood's appeal was denied by the manager of collection services, it was explained that, "While the content does not appeal to you, these titles do resonate with other families in our community, as demonstrated by their use."

Wood's appeal was then taken up by Pasicznyuk, who came to the same conclusion.

"Our policy says that we don't make any decisions based on race, faith, gender — all of these other discriminatory factors that you would see commonly applied — we would not apply those to whether we would buy a book or we wouldn't buy a book," he said.

Growing up as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Zloth said it would have changed her life to have these kind of resources in her local library.

"I'm happy that I am 64-year-old woman living with my spouse and we have a wonderful life. But if there is a 15-year-old, or a 17-year-old kid, who thinks they're the only ones who are gay, or who are transgender, or who are just questioning what's going on, they are so isolated, and again, they are more likely to consider harming themselves," said Zloth. "Seeing books like this, seeing shows on TV, seeing things in the newspaper, and magazines and online, help these kids to understand they're not alone, and that they are normal, and it's okay."

"That's the next generation. I mean, it's so important for these kids to be able to have those resources."

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