Children’s books featuring gay families to be destroyed

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Update 19 July 2014 – Some good news. Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim has stopped the National Library from destroying two of the children’s titles, specifically ‘And Tango Makes Three’ and ‘The White Swan Express’, issuing the order that they be moved to the adult section instead, where parents can borrow them for their children. However, a third title, ‘Who’s In My Family?’ has sadly already been ‘pulped’.

To read more on this development, click on this link to go to the AFP News article I got the information from, via Yahoo! News Singapore.

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I’m deeply disappointed by the news I came across on Yahoo! Singapore that our National Library are going to destroy some children’s books that depict families with gay parents.

What happened:

Two children’s books ‘And Tango Makes Three‘ and ‘The White Swan Express‘ were removed after a member of the public, a Teo Kai Loon, had e-mailed the National Library Board (NLB) voicing his concerns about them.

A Yahoo! News Singapore article reported that:

… In supposedly two days, NLB responded to Teo’s e-mail complaint, stating that the books have been withdrawn following his feedback. NLB emphasised that it “takes a strong pro-family stand in selecting books for children” and “when library visitors like yourself [Teo] highlight to us any conflicting content within books, we review such books thoroughly and withdraw them from circulation”.

The response was signed by Tay Ai Cheng, the assistant chief executive and chief librarian of the NLB.

A member of the Facebook group “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore”, Teo then posted NLB’s response to him on July 8. He did not include the contents of his original e-mail complaint in the post. In the post, Teo called other members of the group to “continue to scrutinise the catalogue and not allow such children books to go under the radar screen”. He also encouraged people to email NLB if they had any concerns, saying that the NLB takes swift action, “all within 2 days”. However, Teo’s Facebook post in the group has since been removed.

What disturbs me:

That the books are to destroyed, instead of simply being given away to people who want them, which would serve the same objective of not having them on the library’s shelves anymore.

I simply don’t understand why the books must be destroyed. To me this reeks of a book-burning exercise, which is shocking and extreme. As a gay person, heck as any thinking and feeling human being, to me it’s like making a damning statement, in this case against gay parenting and therefore gay people.

I don’t care to ever be a parent myself. And so when I read or hear of condemnation to the idea of gays being parents, I admit it’s something that just whizzes by me as just one of the many injustices that is part of life. But not before it slashes me up inside in tiny painful cuts in ways you will never know or understand, unless like me you are a gay person who grew up with straight parents, in a ‘straight environment’, not to mention religious even, but who still suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of people who considered themselves straight, who led straight lives. It happened over a number of years in my childhood.

I’m not traumatised anymore, I function alright. But to be a grown adult already in my 40s and still be weighed down with malaise and sorrow by vivid memories of those episodes that still hit me out of the blue every so often, there is always a bitter smile or laugh in me when I read or hear ignorant and prejudiced people thinking that the safe wellbeing of children depends on whether the parents are gay or straight.

Anyway, whatever, these are just my own scars, from my own experience of my own childhood, which of course also contains happy memories as well. The opinion I want to express here is just that: if we don’t agree with something, that’s fine, but why to the harsh extent of ‘pulping’ such books that are sympathetic to what we don’t agree with?

And what a sad waste of books and money too. I wish they would just give them away to the adults who want them.

Why my grief

My sadness and disappointment stems mostly from that I was very fond of our National Library. I have always loved it and never took this noble public service for granted, even before I started travelling especially to some of our neighbouring countries, where even the most basic public infrastructure like proper pedestrian pavements can be messed up, let alone luxuries like public libraries which are practically non-existent. (After travelling, I consider our libraries a luxury.) I think I have mentioned in this blog a few times how I love and appreciate our National Library, for example in this post here.

Hence the deep disappointment. Now It’s like the love is suddenly tainted or something. It’s like now I feel I might have to reluctantly let go a friend I’m actually fond of. Because how do you remain friends with someone you can’t respect.

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The books in question:

The three titles to be pulped are:

1. And Tango Makes Three, (2005) written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole.

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A photograph of parent and blogger Joyce reading ‘And Tango Makes Three‘ to her daughter. Added here 14 July 2014, with her kind permission. From the excellent review of the book from her family blog TOT: HOT OR NOT. Click image to go there.

From Wikipedia:

The book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. The book follows the six years of their life when they formed a couple and were given an egg to raise.

The book has won many awards but also been at the center of numerous censorship and culture war debates on same-sex marriage, adoption, and homosexuality in animals. The American Library Association reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most challenged.

The following video is a wonderful narration of the moving story, from YouTube user John Mark Johnson.

 

2. The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption (2002), written by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aoki, illustrated by Meilo So.

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Image as seen on The Online Citizen. Click image to go there.

The story is about children adopted by straight, gay, mixed-race and single parents. A description as seen on Amazon.com:

In China, the moon shines on four baby girls, fast asleep in an orphanage. Far away in North America, the sun rises over four homes as the people who live there get ready to start a long, exciting journey. This lovely story of people who travel to China to be united with their daughters describes the adoption process step by step and the anxiety, suspense, and delight of becoming a family. Told with tenderness and humor, and enlivened by joyous illustrations, The White Swan Express will go straight to readers’ hearts.

Click here for a sweet and delightful review of the book.

3. Who’s In My Family?: All About Our Families (2012), written by Robie H. Harris, and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott.

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An image from the book ‘Who’s In My Family?’, as seen on walker.co.uk, via Google Image Search. Click to go there.

A description of the book from Goodreads.com:

Trusted New York Times best-selling author Robie H. Harris continues her series for preschoolers with a look at the many kinds of families that make up our world.

Join Nellie and Gus and their family — plus all manner of other families — for a day at the zoo, where they see animal families galore! To top off their day, Nellie and Gus invite friends and relatives for a fun dinner at home. Accessible, humorous, and full of charming illustrations depicting families of many configurations, this engaging story interweaves conversations between the siblings and a matter-of-fact text, making it clear to every child that whoever makes up your family, it is perfectly normal — and totally wonderful

Click here for a review of the book. And here to go to the website of the author Robie H. Harris.

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Some of the voices defending the books:

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Other related articles:

 

 

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Hello beautiful

As a gay man, as any man really, I’ve never given a serious thought to raising a kid. My partner feels the same way. I don’t like children, actually, haha. I mean I don’t dislike them or anything (except when they continuously misbehave in public, in which case I blame the parents who should be controlling them, not the kids themselves as kids don’t know better) but I just don’t care for them, and I definitely never wished to be a parent. When I’m around babies or kids of friends and family, I can stand maybe five minutes of them before thinking, “Okay, I’ve politely acknowledged your kid by smiling and waving at it like I think it’s adorable or something, now, uhhmm get it out of my face, please?

But damn, I just melted looking at these pictures and reading the story on Buzzfeed. I can’t relate to the parenthood urges of these people, who I don’t even know, but I’m just so happy for this couple. Them, and the kid with dads who obviously love her very very much. And the generous surrogate lady (who is married with two kids of her own) who helped to give them such a precious gift. Frankly I would be nervous if I were one of the dads that she would suddenly decide she’s too attached to the kid to let it go.

The special moments were captured by Canadian photographer Lindsay Foster and the dads are BJ Barone and Frank Nelson from Toronto.

According to the Buzzfeed article:

BJ and Frankie were shirtless when they held Milo for the first time because skin-to-skin contact is said to be beneficial to newborn babies.

I’ve never heard of that, and I think it’s just beautiful.

Long live Bollywood

Just came across this video courtesy of Buzzfeed. I love it. The song, the colours, the handsome men, and of course most importantly the message behind the video.

The happy ending for the couple is the ultimate wish for those of us who love our parents and want nothing more but their acceptance and continued love. Behind the catchy music and the gorgeous sights, that’s the heartrending desire, but thanks to the festive vibe of the video it’s presented in a fun and sweet way, not as some preachy sob story. Nice.

The song and video, called The Welcome, is by the ‘United Nations Free & Equal’, which is an initiative of the United Nations Human Rights Office. Click here to go their website to learn more about them. I’ll be checking it out too. Looks interesting. The video features Bollywood star and Miss India winner Celina Jaitly, who, according to the page for the video, is their Equality Champion. I guess that’s what they call their ambassadors. Good work, Ms. Jaitly.

I also very much love the lyrics, lightly persuading the mother in the story, and us the viewers, to have love in our hearts.

It is a new look, it’s a new attitude

You might wonder where the old way of living has gone

But who is worried about who likes what

As long as in the world of love two people want to be with each other

You and me, me and you – are now unstoppable

So please don’t hesitate, you are always “Welcome” to my home

I love the colours! The joy and intensity. The jewel tones. They are a big part of why the video comes across as dream-like to me. Presented like a dreamscape, a joyous fantasy. If Bollywood ever does an ‘Alice in Wonderful’ type of movie, this would be a great opening, this garden party.

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A still of the video by the United Nations Free & Equal, via the Buzzfeed article. Click image to go there.

And I must have that green jacket. God knows where I will wear it to, haha! Maybe I’ll borrow it from him and slip it on in a dream later tonight. Would love to join, sing and dance, and get lost in that party. Oh my goodness, the jewel tone of that velvet green jacket. So beautiful. My next sofa will be of that colour and fabric! And of course I just love how there is so much glorious purple in that video. Long live Bollywood!

'Lotus Love' by Halim

Two hearts. This looks at home here in this post. From a visit to the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, which I remember had been more interesting and delightful than I had expected.

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Day 98

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

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An Australian classic I always enjoy no matter how many times I watch it. As I write this I just realized it will soon be the 20th birthday of this much-loved movie! How time flies. I remember I first watched it in the cinema when it was first released. And now it’s been 20 years. Wow. Oh well, Happy Birthday, Priscilla!

From Wikipedia:

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a 1994 Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by Stephan Elliott. The plot follows the journey of two drag queens and a transsexual woman, played by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp, across the Australian Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a tour bus that they have named “Priscilla”, along the way encountering various groups and individuals.

… The film was noted for helping to bring Australian cinema to world attention and for its positive portrayal of LGBT individuals, helping to introduce LGBT themes to a mainstream audience.

I love that after Priscilla, all three actors who held the three main roles in the story have successfully moved on to entertain us further with their incredible talent in so many other movies.

*The images below are taken from various sources, from sites of other fans in Tumblr and Pinterest. Click any of the images to go to its source.*

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Left to right above: Terrence Stamp as Bernadette, Guy Pearce as Felicia and Hugo Weaving as Mitzi.

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Mind blown when you remember Hugo Weaving in the pink wig above is Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy, Elrond in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, and V in V for Vendetta, among many, many, other excellent performances. I find the Australian’s work as V particularly breathtaking as he’s in a mask the whole time, and yet his performance was deeply compelling.

Hugo Weaving - Agent Smith - Pinterest

As Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy

Hugo Weaving as Elrond

As Elrond in the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movies

Hugo Weaving as V

As V in V for Vendetta

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English actor Terence Stamp has of course appeared in many movies as well, so many I haven’t seen yet, but the three most memorable and entertaining to me are: as Terry Stricter in the hilarious Steve Martin classic Bowfinger, as Ludwig Beck in Valkyrie, and of course as General Zod in Superman and its sequel. Sure the first two Superman was not after Priscilla but way before, but I can’t resist putting General Zod here since, like Bernadette, it’s such an important iconic role from Terence.

Terence Stamp as General Zod - Pinterest

As General Zod in Superman and Superman 2

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After Priscilla, the most memorable roles to me that Australian Guy Pearce carried was as eager new detective Edmund in L.A. Confidential, as Alexander in The Time Machine, and as Fernand Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo. Recently we also saw him as Aldrich Killian in the last Iron Man.

Guy Pearce - Edmund - Pinterest

as Edmund J. Exley in L.A. Confidential

Guy Pearce - Alexander - Pinterest

As Alexander Hartdegen in The Time Machine

Guy Pearce - Count - Pinterest

As Fernand Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo

Guy Pearce - Aldrich - Pinterest

As Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3

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Day 89

‘Gay Dude: Date and Switch’, at Cathay Cineplex

Pleasantly surprised to see this movie poster loudly proclaiming ‘Gay’ as part of its title, as I was walking past the Cathay building at the end of Orchard Road. That’s nice. It instantly put a big smile on my face.

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What makes it even better is that it wasn’t located in some discreet corner, but right outside by the front entrance. In the photo below, it is the movie poster on the left. Yay, Cathay!

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Wikipedia puts the synopsis of the movie as:

Matty and Michael are two best friends and virgins who vow to each other they will have sex before their senior prom. However, Matty tells Michael that he is gay, changing their quest.

The curious thing is that when I checked out the movie on IMDB (an online database for films), there’s no ‘Gay Dude’ in the title on the poster featured, just ‘Date and Switch‘. This is the same for Wikipedia, as well as for the review site rogerebert.com. So I guess that’s a different version of the poster. Of course I like the one Cathay puts up way better, haha. Also, the term ‘gay dude‘ is cute, like ‘chick flick‘ (a movie that appeals mainly to women).

Related:

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Day 48 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Far From Heaven

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I watched this lushly beautiful and heartbreaking drama again, and fell in love with it all over again. I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since it’s release. Julianne Moore is truly one of the greats. Give the lady an Oscar already, please. Her role here as a 50s suburban American housewife Cathy Whitaker is one where she was nominated for in the Best Actress category in 2003, and just one of the many outstanding performances in her career.

Dennis Quaid was really good too as the emotionally messed up husband Frank, who was struggling to accept the truth about himself. From what I understood from Wikipedia, he was the fourth choice in casting. Which indicates how terribly under-rated some actors are. There are many actors more known for action, adventure and comedy films who are actually great in dramatic roles as well.

I also read that writer and director Todd Haynes wrote the role of Frank envisioning the late James Gandolfini, and I was like, wow, that would have been really good too. James was unavailable because of his work on TV’s The Sopranos, but that would have been a great casting choice as well. He played a sensitive gay assassin in The Mexican (2001), by the way. A memorable and lovable performance. *sigh*

Dennis Haysbert is another actor I wish I see more on the screen. He has the same immense sex appeal and gravitas as Denzel Washington. If the two of them appear in the same movie along with Idris Elba, oh my God, I don’t think I can handle it. Dennis’s role here as Raymond Deagan reminds me of another role of his a decade earlier in the film Love Field (1992). That character too fought racism while having feelings for a love interest of a different race, this time played by Michelle Pfeiffer, in the story set in 60s America.

A video clip from Far From Heaven, courtesy of YouTube user thommcc: At first I thought the title of the clip indicates it shows the final scene, but it doesn’t, so I think it’s okay to put here.

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This post is Day 18 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: enchanted

Imran Khan vs. homophobia

I totally wasn’t prepared for how awesome this video was going to be. Found it via Gaybros. Where else but that subreddit as a reliable source for interesting gay stuff.

Just a bit of warning that there is that ‘f’ word at 1:50 and 2:10, for those who mind such things.

With winsome humour the video tackles some questions that are actually sad and dumb, but questions I can imagine going through the minds of ignorant, homophobic, or just the insistently hateful who are just hell-bent on putting down gay folks.

I laughed like crazy at so many parts, including the glitter ball and rainbow unicorn to illustrate the ‘gay AIDS DNA’, and oh my God, the stealthy gay conversion weapon. Genius.

But fun jokes aside, this video by the guys at All India Bakchod is really commendable for the effort to address discrimination and prejudice, even while it throws its hands up resignedly with a frustrated sigh at how ridiculous it all is. Sadly, here in Singapore we too have that 377A law which criminalises sex between men.

There is of course another famous Imran Khan, of Pakistan, the celebrated former cricketer who is now a politician. Who is incredibly sexy too, by the way.

But the hotness that is the host of this video with the breathtakingly beautiful eyes, is Imran Khan the actor, who works in Hindi-language films. An Indian American who was born in Madison, Wisconsin on 13 January 1983, (so he just turned 31 yesterday. Belated birthday wishes, you handsome big-hearted man.) Imran studied for and received his degree in filmmaking from the Los Angeles branch of the New York Film Academy. He is also a noted social activist, where he has taken up various causes including the elimination of violence against women.

I’m not familiar with his work, (I drool and fan myself more for his uncle Aamir) but for sure I’m going to be checking out Imran’s films very soon.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, it is so kind and generous of him to do this video. Risking his career and stardom, and his personal reputation to do this. I may not have watched a single film by him yet, but I’m already a huge fan of him as such a gracious human being.

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“The point is, that you don’t need cultural approval to live and love in peace.”

imran khan

Image from the tumblr site ‘Imran Khan Fan Club’. Click it to go there.

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Things to check out:

  • what’s elaichi? in biryani? (2:31) I love biryani. What is elaichi and why is it apparently gross in biryani? Have to check that out.
  • the question in Hindi in 5:01. Have to find the translation.

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Update 25 January 2014:

  • A blogger I follow Nuwan Sen has kindly provided the translation in the comment section below. I’ll reproduce it here. It’s:

The guy in Hindi, states, ‘that no body has ever been arrested under section 377, do what you want in the bedroom, without talking so much nonsense (i.e. basically stop fighting for your rights, it all about sex and no love).

  • And elaichi is cardamom in Hindi as well as Punjabi, according to Wikipedia.

Not the ending I was hoping for, but I still liked it.

I came across this short (7 minute) film from Australia via Gaybros.

The ending left me scratching my head. It’s kinda silly, I thought. Okay, it didn’t have to have a predictable happy ending or anything saccharine sweet, but the one featured here left me all “huh… what?“. If the filmmaker was making some social commentary thing or some other point, it just zoomed straight by simple ole’ me.

Warning: hairy man ass shot towards the end at 6:41. A bit too fleeting with its one-second or so appearance.

What I liked about it: 1. The actors were adorable, in a scruffy derpy way. Goodlooking and funny, now that’s a combination that’s always a major turn-on. 2. The story except for the ending. It’s hilarious and entertaining.

There seems to be some outrage and unhappiness as part of its reception. I’ve read someone opined that it promotes transphobia and homophobia. Frankly I don’t agree with that. If anything, I thought the short film shows acceptance of transgenders, by storytelling the idea that attraction ultimately crosses even gender. Pete eventually is still attracted to Harry. Attracted to him as a individual person, regardless of what Harry has between his legs now.

You Can’t Curry Love

I love this short Indian gay film I came across on YouTube. It’s sweet and earnest and joyful. The actors are so handsome and appealing, meaning the two leads as well as the guy playing the boss back in London. The leads are just the kind of guys that turn me on the most; everyday dudes. Well of course they are way cuter than everyday guys, but what I mean is that they are not effeminate, but not superbutch either, just regular guys-next-door.

Posted in May last year by the filmmaker Reid Waterer himself, it now has got more than 2.2 million views. The film is just about 23 minutes long. I think it’s quite wonderful how just perfectly compact it is, managing a decent enough storyline with great pacing, and featuring interesting set locations. And a great promo for Indian tourism, as it features so many inviting scenes without being an outright advert, yet more than enough to whet my appetite and whisper into my ear teasingly, “Hmm… you know you want to go to India at least once in your life, someday soon.

Below is a still I’ve captured of one of the set locations. I think it is a museum. I’m trying to find out what it is called. Because I love the tile work and the inscription work on the walls so much. And of course an indoor courtyard (with a soothingly trickling fountain) is a glorious thing. So elegant, kind of decadent but not overtly so, and to me there is something so incredibly sensuous about it. I think I’ve seen something similar in pictures of a place in Granada, Spain. I can’t catch its name (or perhaps era) that the character Sunil mentioned, only that it is of the 14th century.

scene in You Can't Curry Love

Clicking this image leads directly to its scene in the movie on YouTube.

Police officers in Pune offered roses to Gay Pride parade participants

Someone needs to make this a winner in some Photo of the Year competition somewhere. It’s amazingly beautiful. I have John Lennon’s ‘Imagine‘ going on in my head now. I’ve never come across anything that did that to me before.

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Photo by Deepak Kashyap, via gaylaxymag.com. Click to go there

It is one of two photographs from an article on Gaylaxy Magazine (love the name) by Dhrubo Jyoti, where I was led to by Gaybros.

Pune, India’s eighth largest city and situated in the western state of Maharashtra, celebrated its third Gay Pride parade last Sunday the 24th. The parade had more than 150 participants and gays joining the march was not just from the city but from other remote districts as well. Dhrubo wrote that:

… the highlight of the event was the support extended by the city police, in particular the cops at the Faraskhana police station. The police officers under Inspector Bhanupratap Barge distributed roses to the queer pride, signaling an offer of friendly cooperation with the queer population.

How brilliantly gorgeous is that.

I was trying my luck on YouTube to see if I could catch a video of the parade in Pune, and came across another heart-warming thing below. By the way, the beautiful human being Inspector Barge mentioned in the quote above is also featured in the video, at 0:53.

According to Wikipedia, when it comes to Gay Pride events in India, Kolkata (also known as Calcutta) held the first one in 1999. On 29 June 2008, it also held coordinated events with the Indian capital New Delhi and two other cities, Bangalore and Pondicherry, with the city of Chennai having its event the very next day. Later that year Mumbai held its first ever formal pride parade, to demand that India’s anti-gay laws be amended. A high court in Delhi ruled on 2 July 2009 that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults was not a criminal act. Attendance at the Pride parades has been increasing significantly over the years.