Saturday, September 22, 2012

Modern Day Censorship

If you don't call it 'censorship' it doesn't count, right?

It's hard for me to even write these words, the tiny armpit
of Georgia where I live, the closest bit of anything resembling a
'big city' or 'diversity' is over in Alabama. Yes, it's true; the state
of Alabama has more to offer than B.F.E., Georgia.

And yet...

I had been disappointed some time back when I checked
at Barnes and Noble in Dothan, Alabama (a fairly recent addition,
by the way) for an 'LGBT" (Gay and Lesbian Studies) section in
the store. The young lady was very helpful and friendly, and took
me right to the two shelves where their very modest selection
resided (consisting prominently of some cheesy lesbian fiction.)

This past Thursday, however, when I entered the older Books-a-Million
store in search of the same, I was informed they had no such section
(also by a very courteous and helpful individual, but I digress.)

Like the other bookstore, they did have a country mile of various
religious books available, taking up aisle after aisle and overflowing.
Plenty of books which predictably and shamefully condemn homosexuals
(and encourage others to do the same) or prescribe ridiculous faith-based
'cure-alls,' but no intelligent materials on the matter. Zero space.

Oh, both stores have a microscopic selection of gay magazines
available, essentially T & A, covertly stashed behind other magazines,
typically on the unreachable top shelves (I'm 6' with long arms and had
to strain to see and reach them.)

I understand you have to cater to your audience, and we are stuck in
a cultural wasteland where religion is considered history and Americana,
despite reality. Let's not be disingenuous, though; there is a sufficient and
connected LGBT community in the Dothan area, so there is certainly a
market for selling the books. (There is also huge out-of-state traffic through
the area as it is a connecting spot for several major thoroughfares.) The
problem comes in the kow-towing to the desires of the religious ilk who
don't wish there to be a selection made available in the first place.

So much for a free and fair marketplace.
So much for freedom of speech.
So much for being set free from religious abuses.
So much for a modern and culturally unrepressed south.
So much for books and literature being the great equalizer of ideas.

So, the Alabama Books-A-Million has decided not to carry or promote
books dealing positively (or matter-of-factly) with homosexuality.
(it isn't company policy--more likely a local manager's prerogative to
erase diversity and impose their personal opinion on the entire buying
public.) Yet over 5,000 selections of the religious tomes remain,
even though their ritual and superstition is little more than a guide
of torture and terrorism against children, the elderly, the weak,
the mentally ill, women, minorities, and the gullible.

It's still the stone ages and religion sells, ignorance reigns, and we're
all lifting our guns to the tune of "Backwards, backwards!"

(On the plus side, I did meet an engaging and charming young man during
my visit, so it wasn't a complete waste of time!)

Invisibility sends the message to gay and lesbian men and women that
we don't count. That we don't matter. That we don't belong in the area.
That we are alone. That we have no truths or beauty to parlay. None of
which is true.

It's the same message I received in the barren 1970's in the tiny town
of Seffner, Florida, and even in the larger adjacent city of still-developing Tampa,
where there was absolutely no sign of any other homosexual or proof that one
had ever existed. Those long, isolated, frightening days of being aware that
I was alone in a crowd due to our notable absence in all media was further
exacerbated by trips to Waldenbooks and the library only to find even there,
in the repository for society's advancement and culture, zero reflection of what
I was seeking; connection and understanding.

In a bastion of conservatism and fascism, it is certainly still the duty of
book sellers to portray the others parts of the spectrum equally. To limit
and censor is unconscionable.

Having no role models in sight and feeling disastrously unique is a hard way
to live. We have a voice, we have a history, and we definitely have a place
in the world. We belong. Keeping us invisible is not an acceptable answer,
especially in 2012. It's a bad precedent. It's bad business. It's bad citizenry.


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