Wyoming Librarians MIGHT Not Go To Actual Jail For Stocking Sex Ed Books, Books About Gay Teens

Right Wing Extremism
Wyoming Librarians MIGHT Not Go To Actual Jail For Stocking Sex Ed Books, Books About Gay Teens

Conservatives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, aren't thrilled that people have written books about sex and LGBTQ+ people, who insist on existing. They're threatening to somehow press charges against Campbell County Public Library officials for stocking what these prudes believe is obscene material in sections for children and teenagers.

Susan Sisti, a local pastor and busybody, has raised quite the fuss. She says “smut and filth like this has no place in our schools." No, sorry, that's one of the book-banning bigots from Field of Dreams, but Sisti isn't far off the mark.

"It's really easy to go into the library and look around a little bit and find a filthy book that should not even be in a public library," said Sisti, pastor of Open Door Church in Gillette. "These books are absolutely appalling."

Yes, Sisti is an adult who likes to cruise the children and teens' section of the library, searching for dirty books. That's perfectly normal behavior.

The books that made Sisti's naughty list include This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson, How Do You Make a Baby by Anna Fiske, Doing It by Hannah Witton, Sex Is a Funny Word by Corey Silverberg (it IS), and Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boyby Andrew P. Smiler.

Hugh and Susan Bennett of Gillette also claimed the books possibly violate child-sex laws, which is highly unlikely. I did a quick search to determine if any of these titles are literally porn, even the weird kind Ted Cruz likes on Twitter, and they're actually just informative, educational books that let young people know their bodies and sexual feelings aren't totally disgusting. Is there no decency left?

British author Juno Dawson tweeted: "You can burn every copy [of This Book is Gay] in America and kids will still be LGBTQ+. The least you can do is give them sex education."

Conservatives also freaked out when the Campbell County Public Library scheduled a transgender magician to perform for kids. I'm not a magic expert, but I doubt the magician's gender identity factored heavily into their act. They were a magician performing for kids, which is normal, and they happened to be transgender, which is also normal. However, the act was canceled after disturbed people threatened to make the magician and library staff disappear permanently.

The book banners filed a complaint with the sheriff's office, and prosecutors are reviewing the case. County Attorney Mitchell Damsky announced Friday that they'll involve a special prosecutor in this mess before deciding whether to pursue charges. Promoting obscenity is a misdemeanor in Wyoming, and if convicted, the punishment for knowingly disseminating obscene material to minors is either a $6,000 fine or imprisonment for up to a year. It probably depends on just how gay the books are.

The library's executive director, Terri Lesley, said library officials had reviewed a complain about This Book Is Gay and confirmed that it belonged in the teen section. This is likely because gay teens exist. The book itself doesn't make them gay. The library has recently received 35 complaints about 18 books.

"It's unexpected," Lesley said. "We are trying to be the force of reason, trying to work through these things using the policy we have in place — review these books and do our due diligence."

Sara Burlingame, executive director of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Wyoming Equality, suggested that maybe parents should choose what is appropriate for their kids to read rather than random bigots (she was more polite in her phrasing). Damsky claims that the library could've avoided this whole legal debacle if they'd just stocked the books in the adult section, even though the target audiences are clearly children and teens. I won't judge someone who reads Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret for the first time when they're 30, but they might have benefitted from earlier exposure to the text.

"Personally, as a parent, I find the material to be just inappropriate for children and disgusting. But as a lawyer I'm sworn to uphold the Constitution and that's why we are dealing with it with a fine-toothed comb," Damsky said.

Well, as long as the county attorney is going into this with an open mind, Campbell County Public Library officials should have nothing to worry about, other than possible jail time.


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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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