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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Canadian Library Hides Sculptures of Embracing Men

By Michael A. Jones -

If you stop on by the Tillsonburg Public Library in Ontario to check out a book, you'll notice a bunch of sculptures in the foyer covered with cloths. No, the library isn't trying to keep these pieces from collecting dust. They're censoring the sculptures because they depict same-sex affection, and they don't want patrons to have to view artwork that features two men embracing.
How unfortunate, given that libraries are supposed to be bastions of free expression, where the word censorship rarely comes into play. And the artist behind these sculptures? He's chiding the library for censoring something as innocent as two men hugging.
"This censorship is deeply distressing because of the negative message it sends out to the homosexual community," said R. Bruce Flowers, the artist behind the sculptures who lives in London, Ontario. "With this kind of hostility in their own community, what chance do young people have of making their transition into a homosexual lifestyle valid?"
What rubs Flowers the wrong way here, not to mention several local residents who have sent letters and advocated before library board members, is that the sculptures show nothing more than simple moments of affection between same-sex partners. None of them are overtly sexual in any capacity, and indeed, curators of the show went through Flowers' body of work to make sure that they were choosing family-friendly sculptures.
But it turns out that just the presence of two men embracing was enough for one community member to write his local newspaper, which in turn resulted in a big sheet being thrown over the exhibit. That community member was Greg Friesen, and his newspaper letter made it sound like the library was thrusting homosexuality into the face of every single Tillsonburg resident.
"Since when did a public library become a place to showcase any sort of sexuality?" Friesen wrote. "When I go to the library with my children, I don't want to be seeing, let alone explaining homosexual intimacy to my children."
Wonder if Friesen has any pull with the Smithsonian, too, given their penchant for censoring LGBT artwork. But I digress...
So all of a sudden, just the presence of two men embracing has become akin to the type of "homosexual intimacy" that is inappropriate for children? And this, in a country that might be one of the most progressive on the planet, at least in terms of LGBT rights?
That has local resident Dennis Cutts upset. He told library staff that covering up these sculptures, and feeding into the ideology that two men embracing is somehow inappropriate, only sends a message that LGBT people are less than, and something to hide.
"Personally I feel this decision by the library tells me I shouldn't feel as though I'm part of this community as a gay person," Cutts said. "I feel this is bullying. It makes me feel afraid and uncomfortable."
Yup. Every time a piece of artwork is censored simply for having ties to the LGBT community, that's exactly the message that's sent, even if it's not intended. And it's not acceptable. Parents like Friesen may not enjoy the presence of same-sex couples in their neighborhood, and they may not want their children to learn about the existence of LGBT people. And that's how they can run their families if they so choose.
But public facilities in Tillsonburg or elsewhere in Ontario should know better. Send the library a message that censoring artwork for showing embracing same-sex couples is over the top, and does a disservice to the spirit of free expression that libraries are supposed to harness.

 petition text -

Please don't censor artwork that depicts same-sex affection

Dear Tillsonburg Public Library
I am deeply dismayed to learn that the Tillsonburg Public Library has censored sculptures on display in your building, all because a few community members have voiced concern that they promote homosexuality.
These sculptures, some of which depict innocent moments of same-sex affection, are not offensive, not sexual, and should not be censored by an institution like yours, which is supposed to be all about freedom of expression.
By censoring these works of art, you only send the message that there is something abnormal or inappropriate about intimacy between people of the same gender. That's a dangerous message to send to the larger community.
I urge you to reconsider your decision to censor these works of art.
Many thanks for your time.
[Your name here]


1 comment:

  1. The library board decided to take the cloth down. The sculptures are no longer censored.