X-men’s Shawn Ashmore would be interested in playing a gay Iceman

This year Iceman, one of the original X-men, came out as gay in Bran Michael Bendis’ superb All-New X-Men #40.

Speaking at the 2015 Game Awards, Shawn Ashmore – who has played Iceman for the last 12 years in the movies – said that it’s one of the most interesting things to happen to the character, and that he’d be interested in playing Iceman again

Shawn told IGN:  “Obviously the comics and movies are separate. I wonder what the transition would be because we’ve sort of established Bobby as having a love interest in Rogue and having a love interest in sort of Kitty Pryde, but I think it’d be really interesting.

“I think it’d probably be the most interesting thing that could happen to Bobby in the films. If they decided to take the story that way, it’d be incredibly dramatic, it’d be an interesting storyline, and it would give Bobby a great character arc. I’d definitely be open to that, but again, I’m not sure if they want to take the character in that direction. I have no idea how they would play that out. I think it’d be very interesting.”

Last month, comic book writer and creator of X-men Stan Lee, discovered that Iceman was gay during a live radio interview.

While appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Stan said: “I wasn’t involved in that, that may have been after I stopped writing the books. I didn’t really have any gay characters. If they were gay I didn’t play up to the fact that they were. I wasn’t aware of my characters sexual proclivities.”

He then admitted: “In fact your telling me that is the first time I’d heard. Is Iceman really gay?

“Wow! I never knew that. I don’t care what happens as long as they tell good stories.”

Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez


Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, ListsLance has always known he was gay, but he’s never had a real boyfriend. Sergio is bisexual, but his only real relationship was with a girl. When the two of them meet, they have an instant connection–but will it be enough to overcome their differences?

Allie’s been in a relationship with a guy for the last two years–but when she meets Kimiko, she can’t get her out of her mind. Does this mean she’s gay? Does it mean she’s bi? Kimiko, falling hard for Allie, and finding it impossible to believe that a gorgeous girl like Allie would be into her, is willing to stick around and help Allie figure it out.

Boyfriends with Girlfriends is Alex Sanchez at his best, writing with a sensitive hand to portray four very real teens striving to find their places in the world–and with each other.

Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists
Hardcover, 217 pages

Published April 19th 2011 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Boyfriends with Girlfriends
1416937730 (ISBN13: 9781416937739)

‘Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s Sex Deviates Program’ by Douglas M. Charles



‘Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s Sex Deviates Program’ by Douglas M. Charles

>I confess to a degree of skepticism when I began reading Douglas M. Charles’s new tome, Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program. The activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and J. Edgar Hoover, its insufferable longtime director, would seem by this point to be well-worn scholarly territory. The field is both broad and deep. To name just a relevant few, FBI historian Athan Theoharis (a mentor to Charles) has written extensively about the FBI’s role in civil liberties abuses, Cold War-era red-baiting, and failed counterintelligence, and even addressed the longstanding rumors about Hoover’s own sexuality in J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime. Betty Medsger’s recent The Burglary detailed the rise and fall of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program that illegally surveilled and attacked a variety of civil rights, New Left, and countercultural groups. Meanwhile, Douglas Charles himself has surveyed the FBI’s role in “the rise of the domestic security state.” In his brief and brilliant exposé, The FBI’s Obscene File, he also described the bureau’s classification of alleged obscene materials, including how it used such classification to attempt to destroy the organized gay and lesbian movement. But as is often the case, a thorough scholarly explication of the role and importance of gays and lesbians to any particular historical moment has been the last to arrive. Fortunately, though, Hoover’s War on Gays is that necessary book. It takes its place beside such works as Kenneth O’Reilly’s Racial Matters, about the FBI’s attack on black civil rights organizations, in exhaustively detailing the effects of Hoover’s policies on specific social movements.

Charles dates Hoover and the FBI’s obsession with gays and lesbians to the 1930s, particularly the 1937 kidnapping and murder of a young boy named Charles Mattson. This particular case previewed features of decades of Hoover’s future actions: attacking marginalized groups for political gain and currying favor with the politically powerful. Despite there being no evidence that Mattson was sexually assaulted, the press reported that the FBI was seeking “sexual pervert[s]” in the case, and the public made mental associations between homosexuality and sexual degeneracy. Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt also made public statements regarding the case; this forced Hoover, a Republican appointee who was obsessed with maintaining his job and the FBI’s status, into prioritizing solving Mattson’s murder. Although the Mattson case was never solved, it was one prominent piece in a late 1930s sex crimes panic that played a role in Hoover’s beginning to collect information about gays as part of a larger drive against “sex offenders.” The FBI’s collecting of such information was intensive, building up to a formal Sex Deviates Program and File beginning in 1950. Although it was not confined to federal government employees, this program frequently used information gathered about such employees to have them fired. For Hoover, information collecting was in no way a passive activity; what he learned was used to destroy lives and to solidify his own power and influence.

And what of Hoover’s own sexuality? His relationship with right-hand man Clyde Tolson has certainly been cause for speculation, and that speculation was firmly in place during Hoover’s lifetime. But as Charles points out at the very beginning of Hoover’s War on Gays, comment on Hoover’s personal sexuality remains speculative. (Certainly anyone who believes the accounts of Hoover appearing in public in drag or at orgies — even without knowing the dubious sources of those claims–has very little understanding of the era in which Hoover lived or the social and political position he was attempting to maintain.) Still, Charles’s further assertion, that Hoover’s sexuality simply does not matter, may be surprising to many. He makes a compelling case, though: Hoover’s relentless assault on gays makes perfect sense even if he were straight. Gays and lesbians were an easy target in the culture wars, and rumors of the prominent’s homosexuality were politically advantageous to Hoover’s continued reign. While it may be psychologically satisfying to assume Hoover acted out of self-hatred, that prism is unnecessary; as Charles says, even if Hoover “was, as they say, straight as an arrow…[his] treatment and targeting of gays would still make sense to us given the era and the larger historical, political, social, and cultural forces at play.” For a thorough treatment of those forces, Hoover’s War on Gays will likely remain unsurpassed.

The creation of the Sex Deviates File in 1950 displays links to what historian David K. Johnson has dubbed “the Lavender Scare”–the long-term attack on federal employees that had its roots in the same era as McCarthyism. What Johnson showed and Charles more extensively documents here, though, is that the attack on gays in government predates the McCarthy era. The FBI had its hand in helping to oust Sumner Welles, FDR’s undersecretary of state, when Republicans receive evidence of Welles’ repeated drunken solicitations of African American train employees. This was just one of repeated FBI investigations into rumors surrounding the sexual lives of the prominent, among them Senator David I. Walsh, General Philip Faymonville, Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas, and Illinois governor and two-time Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson (whose index card from the Sex Deviates File is the only one to escape the file’s late 1970s destruction by the FBI). Some of these rumors were true, some not. What Charles makes clear is that Hoover ultimately did not care. These rumors’ truth or falsity was secondary to how useful they might be to Hoover in his relationships with the presidents and lawmakers whose favor he sought.
Of course, as time went on, there were increasing numbers of openly gay men and women for Hoover to harass and attack. The FBI’s investigations into, and surveillance and harassment of, among many others, Mattachine Society founder Harry Hay; Mattachine member and ONE, Inc. founder W. Dorr Legg; original Mattachine Society-DC leader Buell Dwight Huggins; the Daughters of Bilitis; Mattachine Society of Washington co-founder Jack Nichols (whose father, an FBI agent, was demoted and cut off all contact with his son after the FBI uncovered the connection), and, later, the Gay Liberation Front, show Hoover’s desire to crush subversion. That these men and women, who could easily have submitted to fear of the FBI’s power, continued to fight for social and legal changes forms an inspiring counter-narrative in what could have been (and sometimes is) a litany of sad tales. Although Hoover won many battles, the war continued well beyond his death in 1972, and the forces he supported are losing. And what of Hoover’s own sexuality? His relationship with right-hand man Clyde Tolson has certainly been cause for speculation, and that speculation was firmly in place during Hoover’s lifetime. But as Charles points out at the very beginning of Hoover’s War on Gays, comment on Hoover’s personal sexuality remains speculative. (Certainly anyone who believes the accounts of Hoover appearing in public in drag or at orgies — even without knowing the dubious sources of those claims–has very little understanding of the era in which Hoover lived or the social and political position he was attempting to maintain.) Still, Charles’s further assertion, that Hoover’s sexuality simply does not matter, may be surprising to many. He makes a compelling case, though: Hoover’s relentless assault on gays makes perfect sense even if he were straight. Gays and lesbians were an easy target in the culture wars, and rumors of the prominent’s homosexuality were politically advantageous to Hoover’s continued reign. While it may be psychologically satisfying to assume Hoover acted out of self-hatred, that prism is unnecessary; as Charles says, even if Hoover “was, as they say, straight as an arrow…[his] treatment and targeting of gays would still make sense to us given the era and the larger historical, political, social, and cultural forces at play.” For a thorough treatment of those forces, Hoover’s War on Gays will likely remain unsurpassed.

Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program
By Douglas M. Charles
University of Kansas Press
Hardcover, 9780700621194, 480 pp.
September 2015 – See more at: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/reviews/11/27/hoovers-war-on-gays-exposing-the-fbis-sex-deviates-program-by-douglas-m-charles/?utm_source=Lambda+Literary+Review+December+4th%2C+2015&utm_campaign=Newsletters&utm_medium=email#sthash.7vtdjm6j.dpuf

‘And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality’ by Mark Segal

Snap 2015-11-30 at 15.31.56Lambda Literary

Review by Gena HymowechNovember 24, 2015

And Then I Danced is more than a memoir; it’s a revelation. In writing about his life, Mark Segal not only shines a light on his own achievements but on those of others, including Marty Robinson and Craig Rodwell. These names, like Segal’s, are not as well-publicized as they should be, and that’s a huge part of why this book is so vital. Equally important is how Segal shatters mistaken beliefs about queer history.

Growing up poor and Jewish in a Philadelphia housing project, discriminated against, and living in conditions that are beyond frustrating; Segal experiences the perfect training ground for life as a gay activist. In just a few lines, he perfectly describes the unique heartbreak being poor brings. His mother has taken him to buy a toy after his father practically had a nervous breakdown because he wasn’t able to give Segal something he wanted:

As we entered Wilson Park, [Mom] asked if I liked my toy. I reached into the bag and my train was gone. I said nothing. Seeing my reaction, she took the bag and found the hole in the bottom through which my toy had fallen out. She just started to cry. Watching my mother cry after all that had occurred that day, I wanted to cry and yell as well, but instead I got sick to my stomach. I just stood there in silence, awash in guilt.

As a boy, Segal is tempted mightily by the sexy men’s fashion section of the Sears and Roebuck catalogs, but represses his feelings. Eventually, he sees an episode of the pioneering David Susskind Show, featuring a man from the Mattachine Society. The author’s path is clear; he must go to New York.

But once he lands, things are not as they appear. Robinson tells Segal that the group isn’t in tune with younger activists. This is one of the most important myths Segal busts: The gay movement was not unified and was segmented by, among other things, age and class.

About a month after Segal is in New York, the Stonewall Uprising happens.

Stonewall, notes Segal, wasn’t the first gay protest (it was preceded by the Compton Cafeteria riot in San Francisco and the Dewey’s sit-in in Philadelphia). It wasn’t as big as you might think (Segal estimates a few hundred participated). It wasn’t one night (try four). It was not about Judy Garland dying, and it only included a small representation of the gay population. “[A]nyone with a decent job or family ran away from that bar as fast as they could to avoid being arrested. Those who remained were the drag queens, hustlers, and runaways.”

The movement Stonewall gives birth to results in a different kind of activism involving the media. Segal starts doing zaps, or “nonviolent protests that put us in a light that was not stereotypical.” In front of about 60 percent of America, he interferes with a Walter Cronkite broadcast. It’s a brilliant strategy, taking the weapon out of the hands of an oppressor and using it as a tool of activism.

Segal really puts the movement in context for the post-Stonewall generation. Activism in the 60s and 70s wasn’t about big corporations or celebrity spokespeople, he notes, and most gays didn’t appreciate the efforts activists were making. It also wasn’t the gig you took if you wanted to be a millionaire. Segal finally figures out a way to be paid for his activism by publishing the Philadelphia Gay News, which he still runs.

The flaws here are minor. Obviously, the death of his mother and the raising of his son are important to him, but they don’t translate into riveting copy, and his account of what it was like to help create the Philadelphia Freedom Concert & Ball, starring Elton John, feels pointless.

What Segal does best is provide an accessible history. And Then I Danced makes a great college textbook, or just an excellent guide for young queer leaders. The most important lesson one can learn from Segal’s life is that, no matter what, you just have to keep on fighting.

And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality
By Mark Segal
Open Lens/Akashic Books
Hardcover, 9781617754104, 400 pp.
October 2015

– See more at: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/reviews/11/24/and-then-i-danced-traveling-the-road-to-lgbt-equality-by-mark-segal/?utm_source=+Lambda+Literary+Review+November+27th%2C+2015&utm_campaign=Newsletters&utm_medium=email#sthash.4jF2N97f.dpuf

Over the River With Two Dads: An Interview With Author Linda Ashman


Over the River...


Our daughter received her annual birthday greeting and gift of $10 from the Toy House here in Jackson, MI. It’s one of our favorite places to shop as it’s a local, family-owned business plus they have really cool stuff for both kids and adults alike. While Anna ran around ringing the birthday bell and posing for her picture for the November birthday wall, I took a moment to check out the new books in the store’s book section. The holiday books were pushed to the front and one caught my eye. It was Linda Ashman’s Over the River & Through the Wood: A holiday adventure. We sing the song to our kids as we have to cross either the Maumee River or the St. Joseph River to get to either one of our parents’ house each holiday.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a same-sex male couple with kids as one of the family groups as I read and followed along with the story line. The owner of the store came by and I pointed out the couple and he laughed. I cautioned him that in our rather conservative town (one of the allegedly birthplaces of the Republican Party) this type of family might not fly. He shook his head and asked me how many copies of the book I wanted.

I decided to do my homework and sniffed around on line for the author. I found her on social media and asked her if she wouldn’t mind chatting about the book, its genesis and the gay dads. This is our chat:

Hi Linda! Thanks for taking my questions! You included a same-sex couple with kids in your book, why? Was this in the works prior to the SCOTUS ruling last June or was it there all along?

The book got its start three years ago when my Sterling Publishing editor, Meredith Mundy, asked me to write a contemporary take on this classic holiday song. As part of the update, we felt it was important to show a modern family — one with a variety of family types, including a same-sex couple with kids. So, yes, the book was in the works well before the Supreme Court ruling (the journey from idea to published picture book is a long one!).

Yes it is! My book took several years from idea to publication. I noticed that the other families in the book look diverse as well. The one couple appears to have two children of Asian descent. We can assume that they were adopted?

Yes. We wanted the characters to be diverse in multiple ways so that lots of kids (and adults) would recognize themselves and their families in the illustrations. The story involves four far-flung siblings and their families making their way — by various means — to Grandma’s house. In addition to the family headed by two dads, there’s a biracial couple and their child, a family with two adopted kids and a couple with three kids and two dogs.

Both of my nieces were adopted and they are African American. I am totally getting them this book for Christmas! So were you prepared for the negative criticism and reviews that you shared with me in our initial chat on Facebook?

So far, I’ve seen just one negative comment: A reviewer on Amazon considered it “inappropriate” for his toddler. While I wasn’t completely surprised by that sort of response, it still caught me off guard. It’s hard to understand how a story about a loving, inclusive family can be considered inappropriate.

I am so very sorry for him and his kids. Sigh. So much work to do! Have there been any positive reviews or comments

Yes! Aside from that one isolated comment, the reviews have been extremely positive. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, and other major publications — Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist — have all praised the book and the diversity of the characters. In addition, the personal feedback I’ve received from readers — especially those who see themselves reflected in the book — has been especially gratifying.

By the way, what is your own experience with same-sex couples? It appears that you and your amazing illustrator have some as you’ve nailed the look. (Urban setting, snappy glasses, etc.).


Well, thank you on behalf of Kim Smith, the book’s fabulous illustrator. Kim and I both have a number of gay friends, some single and some married, and few of them fit any sort of stereotype. Many years ago, I shared an apartment in Los Angeles with my friend, Paul, who is gay (and is now married to his longtime partner). My son has grown up with kids with same-sex parents and doesn’t think twice about it. I like to think his generation is a little more open-minded; let’s hope so.

True, and with SCOTUS back in June, we’re quickly becoming the new normal. My kids will now ask if a same sex couple is married. That is something I never would have considered when I was a kid. So how does this book/story relate to your own family’s holiday traditions? Why did you choose to write about this time of year?

Like the characters in the book, my husband and I have family members scattered across the country. Since we’ve moved a fair amount — from Los Angeles to Denver to Chapel Hill — the gathering place tends to change from year to year. This year we’re going to a friend’s house nearby — no long journeys involved!

It must be the year for that as we’re staying local as well. Although my husband’s father is a retired chef, I always look forward to holidays at their place. Speaking of, for many LGBT folk, the very thought of the holidays induce great amounts of stress and angst. However, aside from the travel issues that are germane to the story line, the gay couple seem pretty at ease with the family event. Were you aware of the stress that many of us feel this time of year?

The holidays can be hard for so many people — we all dream of those harmonious Rockwellian gatherings and, for most of us, that’s not the reality. I imagine the anxiety and tension are that much greater for LGBT folk, especially if they feel they can’t be who they are around family members. A friend of mine was unable to tell his parents he was gay until well into his 30s — so some of the people at holiday gatherings knew, and some didn’t. Very stressful.
But you’re right — the gay couple here is clearly part of a loving family in which people genuinely like and respect each other. The beauty of picture books is that sometimes you get to create the world you want to live in.

So were you intending to normalize the same-sex family or just present them as is… without agenda, without comment, without a story?

Another thing I love about picture books is that the illustrations convey so much meaning — you don’t have to spell everything out in the text. So, through the illustrations, readers take in this beautiful, happy family — and, oh, by the way, those kids have two dads, and not everyone seems to be the same color or ethnicity. So, yes, I wanted the two-dad family to seem unremarkable — like the other families in the book. I also hoped that kids who don’t often see themselves in picture books might see themselves and their families here. When I read the book to a friend’s daughter, she pointed to a family portrait in one of the illustrations and asked, “Who took the picture?” It was a good reminder that, to young kids, the characters in books are real. So when kids see all sorts of diverse people and family configurations in their books, it becomes a little more ordinary when they see them in real life. And maybe that leads to more understanding and inclusiveness for everyone. I hope so.

So what are your plans for the future?

Our son goes off to college next year, which feels like a seismic shift in our normal routine around here. Not sure what it will lead to, but I’m trying to stay open to the possibilities. In the meantime, I’ve got more books coming out in the next few months, and more writing projects in the works.

Linda, thanks so much for chatting with me! Enjoy your holiday!

You can find more about Linda and her book here: http://lindaashman.com/about-the-books/over-the-river-and-through-the-wood/

Images reprinted with permission from Over the River & Through the Wood © 2015 by Linda Ashman, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Kim Smith.

School Is In: LGBTQ Picture Books

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November 15, 2015

By Elizabeth Gartley

November is Picture Book Month, an international literacy initiative which celebrates print picture books, and picture books are worth celebrating. Picture books are a powerful medium, and they are often the first form of literature that young children enjoy. Even as a middle school librarian who works with young teens, I keep a small collection of picture books in my library. Teachers use picture books to teach about such complex themes as identity, bullying, the immigrant experience, even war. Somehow, the simple combination of story and pictures allows readers to experience and empathize with the lives and feelings of others unlike other forms of storytelling.

Considering the powerful and important role that picture books play in the lives of young readers, it’s no surprise that picture books are also often at the center of controversy. In the late 1950s, The Rabbit’s Wedding by Garth Williams, which features a white rabbit marrying a black rabbit, caused outrage because of the perceived message in support of racial integration and interracial marriage. These days, we most often hear uproar over picture books which focus on gender roles and gender identity or same-sex relationships and families.

Since the early 2000s, as the number of LGBTQ-themed picture books has steadily grown, so have the challenges. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, the true story of two male zoo penguins who raise an adopted chick, was the third most challenged book in the U.S. last year, and was the most challenged book from 2006 to 2008, in 2009 Tango got bumped to second place (by thettyl series by Lauren Myracle), but was back in the top spot again in 2010. In 2012, Todd Parr’s The Family Book, which celebrates different family structures, was banned in an Illinois school district for the line “some families have two moms or two dads.”

King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, a picture book about two princes who fall in love, made the ALA most challenged book list back in 2003 and 2004 and has continued to be at the center of controversies. In Stuart Biegel’s 2010 book, The Right to Be Out: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America’s Public Schools, King & King appears in a couple of cases. In one such case in 2006, parents filed lawsuit against a school in Massachusetts after a teacher read the book aloud as part of a unit on weddings (same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004). After the judge dismissed the lawsuit, the parents appealed the case, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of the school.

But even now, after the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling that same-sex marriage cannot be denied by the states, earlier this year in North Carolina, a third-grade teacher, Omar Currie, and vice-principal, Meg Goodhand, ended up resigning in the wake of the controversy that arose after Currie read King & King in his classroom.

While I’m often disappointed that most elementary school libraries are completely lacking in any LGBTQ or gender-nonconforming picture books, I’m not surprised. No one wants to be at the center of such a dispute. But fear of challenges isn’t the only factor which precludes the inclusion of LGBTQ picture books in elementary school libraries. Often, even those who otherwise support LGBTQ inclusion in (high) schools balk at the idea of LGBTQ inclusion in elementary schools or even middle schools, assuming that LGBTQ themes are inherently sexual and therefore inappropriate for young readers. However, there are children who have LGBTQ parents or family members, and there are those students who will grow up to identify as LGBTQ themselves. Educators also see that homophobic bullying and bullying based on gender stereotypes begins in primary school. Omar Currie read King & King in his classroom after seeing that one of his male students had become a target for teasing and bullying when other students viewed the child’s behavior as too feminine for a boy.

Teachers and librarians regularly use picture books to teach about differences and to teach kindness toward others, and our efforts to instill such values cannot preclude a specific group of people or certain types of families. If librarians and teachers can read a picture book to children which features mom and dad characters or a princess falling in love with a prince, without sex coming into the discussion, then the same is true of books with two moms or a prince falling in love with another prince.

Picture books with LGBTQ themes can help challenge gender stereotypes and combat homophobic bullying, and they can provide opportunities to teach about relationships and respecting the differences of others. One of the concerns that seems to pop up around LGBTQ picture books is children having questions about such topics, as though children asking questions is something to be feared. Children may indeed have questions, and in that case, a teaching moment arises that people have differences and all people deserve the same kindness and respect.

LGBTQ picture books also benefit LGBTQ youth themselves. Although most LGBTQ people come out in adolescence or adulthood, many LGBTQ adults recall feeling “different” or separate from their gender group as a child. For those children who feel different or who may grow up to identify as LGBTQ, silence sends a very clear message. If children are only exposed to heteronormative stories and characters, they will learn that anything different is “inappropriate” and bad, and that they themselves are bad.

So OK, LGBTQ picture books are important, but what can librarians do to protect themselves against challenges or even lawsuits? The first step is to ensure that your school district has an up-to-date selection policy for library and classroom materials, this policy should include statements in support of intellectual freedom (such as the Library Bill of Rights), an enumerated non-discrimination clause, and specific protocols for reconsideration.

But well-written policies are only effective if they’re followed. In some cases (such as Currie’s case), school administrators are all too eager to ignore school policy if it helps them avoid controversy. Sometimes even school boards themselves will approve policy, but when a challenge comes, ignore their own policies. Creating and approving the policies is the first step, educating administrators and the school community on the purpose and meaning of such policies is just as important.

In the fall issue of AASL’s Knowledge Quest on intellectual freedom, DaNae Leu, an elementary school librarian wrote about her experience standing up for In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco. During the challenge process, she collaborated with other librarians, and as a result of the challenge, she wrote that she has increased the justification for her acquisitions and regularly refers to the Library Bill of Rights, the Code of Ethics, the Intellectual Freedom Manual, and other resources.

On Wednesday of this week (November 18) ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom is hosting a webinar “Picture Books and Challenges: Dealing with Controversial Topics in Children’s Collections.” The webinar is at 2:00p.m. Eastern and will be hosted by Carolyn Caywood and Peter Coyl and is sponsored by ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Roundtable and Intellectual Freedom Roundtable. This webinar is free to members of GLBTRT and IFRT. $20 for ALA members and $25 for non ALA members. More information at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/picturebookswebinar.

Books Inclusive of LGBT Family Members and Characters

All Kinds of Families

All Families Are Special, Norma Simon. (2 – 3). Goes beyond other books in portraying different kinds of families and shows both what can be hard in a family, as well as what is good and special. Includes two-mom, blended, adoptive, and international families.

Dear Child, John Farrell, (Pre-K – K). Features three families, a two-mom adoptive family, a single father and a mom and dad family expressing their wonder and joy of having a young child.

Families, Susan Kuklin. (4 – 5). Combining interviews and engaging color photos, this shows the diversity of families in America. Includes mixed-race, immigrant, two-dad, two-mom and single-parent families and families for whom religion is a focal point.

The Family Book, Todd Parr. (Pre-K – K). All kinds of families are celebrated in a funny, silly and reassuring way. Includes adoptive families, stepfamilies, single-parent families, two-mom and two-dad families and families with a mom and a dad. Quirky humor and bright, childlike illustrations.

The Great Big Book of Families, Mary Hoffman. (Pre-K  – 3). Features all kinds of families and their lives together. Each spread showcases one aspect of home life – from houses and holidays, to schools and pets, to feelings and family trees.

Picture Books with LGBT Family Members

The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy, S. Bear Bergman. (Pre-K – 3) Follow Tulip as he helps out with the birthday wishes of all the nine-year-olds in North America. Tulip receives a wish from a child known as David who wishes to live as Daniela. He doesn’t understand how to help, so he seeks the wise counsel of the Wish Fairy Captain.

And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell. (1-3). Penguins Roy and Silo at New York’s Central Park Zoo, keep putting a rock in their nest and try to hatch it. The zookeeper gives them a real egg that needs care. The penguins take turns sitting on ituntil it hatches, and Tango is born.

Confessions of a Former Bully, Trudy Ludwig. (2 – 5)  Told from the unusual point of view of someone who bullied rather than the target. Highlights bullying with words. Provides kids with real life tools they can use to identify and stop relational aggression. Mentions taunting for being perceived as gay.

The Different Dragon, Jennifer Bryan. (K – 1). Shows how the wonderful curiosity and care of a little boy, with some help from his two moms, can lead to magical places with a dragon who is tired of being tough.

Donovan’s Big Day, Lesléa Newman, (Pre-K – 2). Captures the excitement of  a young boy as he and his extended family prepare for the boy’s two moms’ wedding. A picture book about love, family, and marriage.

Heather Has Two Mommies, Lesléa Newman. (Pre-K – K). 25th Anniversary Edition. Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two arms, two legs, and two pets. And she also has two mommies. As school begins, Heather sees that, “the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love one another.”

I am Jazz, Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. (K – 5)   From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. Based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings.

Jacob’s New Dress, Sarah and Ian Hoffman. (Pre-K – 2)  Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear “girl” clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants?

Keesha and Her Two Moms Go Swimming, Monica Bey-Clarke and Cheril N. Clarke. (K – 2) While having fun splashing with other friends, Keesha meets a little boy who has no friends and no toys, until Keesha does the right thing and makes a new friend.

The Purim Superhero, Elisabeth Kushner. (PreK – 2)  Nate loves aliens and he really wants to wear an alien costume for Purim, but his friends are all dressing as superheroes and he wants to fit in. What will he do? With the help of his two dads he makes a surprising decision.

Stella Brings the Family. Miriam B. Schiffer. (Pre-K – 1)  Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day celebration, but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? Fortunately, Stella finds a unique solution to her party problem in this sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.

A Tale of Two Daddies, Vanita Oelschlager. (Pre-K – 1). A young girl answers a friend’s questions about what it is like to have two fathers. The boy asks straightforward questions. The story ends with simply, “Who is your dad when you’re sad and need some love?” Both, of course.

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, Sarah S. Brannen (Pre-K – 2). Looks at the fears that a young girl has of losing her favorite uncle when he plans to get married. Everyone in the family is happy, but her. Finally, she sees that she is not losing an uncle but gaining another uncle. The characters are depicted with animals.

Chapter Books with LGBT Family Members or Characters

After Tupac & D Foster, Jacqueline Woodson. (5 – 8) The day D Foster enters Neeka and her best friend’s lives, the world opens up for them. D comes from a world vastly different from their safe Queens neighborhood, and through her, the girls see another side of life. They share a passion for the rap music of Tupac Shakur. They also deal with discrimination directed toward the gay brother of one of the girls.

Also Known as Elvis. James Howe. (4 – 7)  Skeezie’s got the leather jacket of a tough guy, but a heart of gold. While stuck at home for the summer taking care of his sisters and working five days a week to help out his mom, he navigates first crushes and tough choices about family and friends. Final book in The Misfits series.

Better Nate Than Ever, Tim Federle. (5 – 9) Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York for an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, knowing this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time

stardom. In the sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, Nate finds out that Broadway rehearsals are nothing like he expects: full of intimidating child stars, cut-throat understudies, and a secret admirer!

Drama, Raina Telgemeier. (5 – 8). Graphic novel through drama – a play – and drama between characters explores middle school feelings with boyfriends and girlfriends, and boyfriends and boyfriends.

Gracefully Grayson. Ami Polonsky. (5 – 7)  Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside. Will new strength from an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher’s wisdom be enough to help Grayson step into the spotlight she was born to inhabit?

Keeper, Kathi Appelt. (4 – 7). To ten-year-old Keeper, this moon is her chance to fix all that has gone wrong. Her mermaid mother swam away when she was three. When the riptide pulls at her boat, panic sets in, and the fairy tales that lured her out there go tumbling into the waves. Includes a tender romance between two teenaged boys years earlier. One turns out to be a merboy.

Luv Ya Bunches, Lauren Myracle, (4 – 6). A funny, honest depiction of the shifting alliances and rivalries between girls that shape school days. Written with a mix of instant messages, blog posts, and straight narrative. Four diverse 5th grade girls come together in friendship. One of the girls has two moms. First in a series of Flower Power books.

The Manny Files, Christian Burch. (3 – 6). Shy Keats Dalinger learns from his unconventional male “nanny” to be more self-confident and out-going while the “manny” becomes more and more a part of the family. Sequel: Hit the Road, Manny. Mom, Dad, four kids and Manny take a road trip. Looks directly at gay put-downs, parental acceptance, celebrating commitment and pride.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, Dana Alison Levy. (3 – 5)  From camping trips to scary tales told in the dark, from new schools to old friends, from imaginary cheetahs to very real skunks, the Fletchers’ school year—as always—is anything but boring. Meet the Fletchers: four boys, two dads, and one new neighbor who just might ruin everything.

The Misfits, James Howe. (6 – 9)  Four best friends try to survive seventh grade in the face of all-too-frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence and sexual orientation/gender expression. The characters, including an open and unapologetically gay boy, are not cast as victims, but as self-empowered agents of change who will stand as solid role models. With a focus on individual characters from The Misfits check out Totally Joe, Addie on the Inside, and Also Known as Elvis.

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World, E. L. Konigsburg. ( 5 – 7). Two boys find themselves caught up in a story that links a sketch, a young boy’s life, an old man’s reminiscence, and a painful secret dating back to the outrages of Nazi Germany. Includes revelations about the victimization of artists and gays during the Holocaust.

No Castles Here, A.C.E. Bauer. (5 – 7).  Augie knows how to get by – be invisible. Then, a book of fairy tales, participation in a school chorus, and a gay Big Brother combine to give 11-year-old Augie the confidence he needs to handle bullies and become an activist.

Playground: A Mostly True Story of a Former Bully, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Laura Moser. (6 – 9). A realistic look at bullying from the perspective of an urban young teen boy in middle school. Looks at the boys feelings as both a target and perpetrator of bullying. Also deals with divorce and gay parenting. Some explicit language.

The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang, Amy Ignatow. (4 – 6). Two fifth-grade best friends are determined to uncover the secrets of popularity by observing, recording, discussing, and replicating the behaviors of the “cool” girls. Notebook format with a lot of illustrations. Julie has two dads. There are seven books in the series. The second book specifically looks at bullying.

Riding Freedom, Pam Muñoz Ryan. (4 – 6).  A fictionalized account of the true story of Charley (Charlotte) Parkhurst who ran away from an orphanage, posed as a boy, moved to California, drove stagecoaches and continued to pass as a man her whole life.

The Trouble with Babies, Martha Freeman. (2 – 4). Holly has just moved to San Francisco. Her new friend Xavier, who lives with his two dads, has a crush on Annie, who is Jewish and Chinese. Xavier hopes to win Annie over by putting her “yucky” baby sister in his de-yuckification machine.

The Year of Billy Miller, Kevin Henkes. (1 – 2)  Follow along as Billy learns to navigate 2nd grade with his stay-at-home dad, his busy working mom and his cute (but annoying) little sister. From the complications of a diorama to a poetry slam on family, Billy makes it through the year. A classmate has two moms.



The Secrets of Sam and Sam

The Secrets of Sam and SamSam likes being a twin. He likes having two mums. He likes cheese sandwiches and his dog and drawing comics with his friend Pea. He does not like humous – or heights…

His twin sister Sammie likes being a twin too. She knows that she’s perfect best friend material for somebody – the girls in her class just haven’t realised yet. And she knows that she’s the best Sam – Sam A.

Both Sam and Sammie – and everybody in their lives seems to be keeping secrets – which ones will come out?

Meet the very different twins and their very different problems in this funny, heart-warming story of modern family life for boys and girls.

Warwick Rowers Not Giving Ifs or Ands—Just Lots of Butts—to Fight Homophobia

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The clothing-challenged altruistic lads of the Warwick Rowers Club are back with another nude calendar to help fight homophobia.

warwick rowers gif

“We started our calendar to raise funds for our club,” begins the gorgeous voiceover in the behind-the-scenes video of the 2016 Warwick Rowers Calendar. “Then we started hearing from a lot of gay men. They found our calendar and they really liked it. ‘Did we mind having gay fans?’ some of them asked. We didn’t even understand the question. Why would we mind?”

Related | The Warwick Rowers 2015 Nude Calendar

Realizing that some guys did mind where homophobia is prevalent, particularly in team sports, they decided to start a charity, Sport Allies, to support youth who are victims of bullying and homophobia.

According to the velvet-voiced narrator, the naked calendar has given the Warwick Rowers a chance to make a point:

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These kids are all about embracing everyone regardless of their gender and sexuality, as well as embracing each other sans clothing. And that’s something we can all get on board with. Meanwhile, we should also get on board with 2016: The Return of the Fuzzy Bum.

warwick rowers gif

You heard it hear first. You can learn more about the naked rowers, Sport Allies and order calendars and other merch here. And check out a preview of the calendar below:

Les Fabian Brathwaite—putting the “wick” in Warwick since 1985.

EXCLUSIVE: X-Men's Iceman Confronts Himself: 'You Are Gay'



A significant chapter in the history of Marvel’s X-Men comes to a close with the release ofUncanny X-Men #600 Wednesday. The issue marks the end of writer Brian Michael Bedis’s epic saga which features young versions of the original five X-Men (Iceman, Cyclops, Beast, Angel, and Jean Grey) displaced in time and fighting the never-ending battle in present day. In an interesting twist on the history of Marvel’s mutants, young Iceman (a.k.a. Bobby Drake) came out as gay in April’s All-New X-Men #40, raising questions about his older self who presents as heterosexual in the “current” timeline.

In the three-page exclusive preview of Uncanny X-Men #600 below, young Drake confronts his older self about his sexuality, and the truth behind which way the original Iceman swings is finally revealed.

A new era for the X-Men kicks off here and takes flight in the pages of Extraordinary X-Men #1, also available Wednesday.

‘Worlds Apart’ by David Plante




Review by Kevin Brannon
September 30, 2015

David Plante has always been driven by intimations of wholeness. His novels aspire to remind us of our spiritual yearning for unity, for what is universal and beyond the self. It is an ambition he returns to in his new memoir, Worlds Apart, which he has culled from his diaries spanning the 1980s and early 1990s. This most personal form of writing, with its tendency over time to “accumulate itself into an entity that is outside myself. . .by making connections, masses and masses of connections ” turns out to provide the perfect raw material for what Plante has in mind. The diaries (at least the bits he shares) are all but free of introspection, his pen trained only to what was said and done, and by whom. What results is an account of human connection, spanning out across the globe, of a world that would go right on spinning regardless of the writer’s fevered attempts to keep up. For readers who yearn more for good dish than spiritual pondering, it does not hurt that Plante’s “connections” are of the very best kind: Germaine Greer, Phillip Roth, David Hockney, to name a few. And they meet in wonderful places like London and New York. Even Tulsa, Oklahoma, with its gaudy Christian temples and gun-toting denizens, is not too far afield as to escape incorporation.

Worlds ApartOf  course, part of the wonder of the world Plante has created is its susceptibility to ruin. He opens with a note on the death of his partner, Nikos Stangos, with whom he shared the greater part of his life, including the years covered here. Then, passages written in London in which Plante ruminates on the news from back home in the States that his mother has lost her breasts to cancer. Cut to New York and he is on his way to the St. Mark’s Baths with Öçi, his dearest friend. It’s the early 1980s and the reader knows what Plante does not: that the men who go there will soon begin to die. Another of Plante’s intimates, the English poet and novelist Stephen Spender, begins his descent into old age. The void is everywhere, not least of all within Plante himself. As a child, he remembers telling his mother, “I never asked to be born.” She responds by slapping his face.

For all of that, Worlds Apart is not a terribly grim read. Everywhere Plante observes people reaching out for connection, new sources of love and life. Spender embarks upon his final great love affair with a young American named Bryan, fifty years his junior. By this time, he is married to a long suffering concert pianist named Natasha, and the question of how much she knows, what Plante and Stangos can say to comfort her without betraying their friend, is a source of delicious tension. Roth publishes a thinly fictionalized account of an affair he has while living in London with Claire Bloom, to whom he will soon be married. Plante himself enjoys a brief sexual affair with the painter Jennifer Bartlett and nurtures a passion for her that spans the years. Everyone, it seems, is at pains to keep the home fires burning while conquering the next adjacent land in the name of friendship or love. Or, if one happens to encounter Germaine Greer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a bit of sympathetic company.

Still, the reader might easily forget about Plante’s metaphysical preoccupations if he did not find ways of returning to them. (When his publishers balk at his new novel, he writes them a passionate letter explaining the book’s philosophical underpinnings.) Instead, the real wonder of this diary-as-memoir is Plante’s genius for observation. Visiting Israel with Roth, he captures the famously self-referential author with a precision that makes him instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with his novels. During a teaching stint at the University of Tulsa, Plante ends up sharing a house with Greer, and the overlapping of their lives makes for a strange domestic comedy that shows her in wild variety of moods. One moment she is startlingly open to intimacy–the two share a bed, chastely nude, to make room for out of town guests–and the next sees her peevishly refusing to share her groceries as Plante sits devastated over the news of his mother’s death. Yet, he never resorts to caricature; his mode of detachment allows him the space to work the contradictions into a characterization that feels alive, convincingly complex, and deceptively effortless.

However much Plante may want to inspire us to contemplate what he calls “the undivided spirit,” that ultimate state of wholeness to which all our lonely souls aspire, Worlds Apart may actually do the opposite. The fallen world he offers up, with all of its messy differentiation, is far too seductive to wish away. Desire (and all that is done on its behalf) is always more interesting than its object, earthly or divine. And when Plante and his friends are through with living, we will miss them very much.

World’s Apart: A Memoir
By David Plante
Bloomsbury Publishing
Hardcover, 9781408854808, 359 pp.
August 2015

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