Saturday, November 14, 2009
Censorship Of Gay Art And Literature: Unacceptable!
In recent months, largely unnoticed by the "mainstream media" or the public at large, there has been a disturbing trend towards censorship of gay art and literature, both in the United States and across the globe. Suppression of gay artistic and literary expression is nothing new. Lately, however, the specter of "acceptable standards" for art and literature has reared its ugly head once more, this time with renewed venom. Consider the Web marketing giant Amazon, whose book division was caught earlier this year quietly de-ranking every LGBT book in its catalog, while leaving straight eotic or romantic titles alone. When Amazon was called out on this by gay and lesbian authors and artists, they blamed a "glitch" in their system for the abrupt change. Of course, the "glitch" was working just fine, thank you.
In addition to the attempts at silencing gay and lesbian authors, the works of gay artists have also been quashed. Witness, for example, the closing of an art exhibit at Brigham Young University. The project, by a local photographer, consisted of pairs of (fully clothed) pictures of men, side by side. One was gay, the other straight. The exhibit (and the artist) won't tell you which is which, hence the theme and the challenge of the exhibit. This was too "unacceptable" for the Salt Lake City Mormon community, which promptly had the exhibit shut down.
As more and more homophobic people, organizations, and government agencies continue to appoint themselves the arbiters of what is "correct" and "acceptable" in art and literature, it's perhaps well to remember where that slippery slope leads to. In 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power, his Nazi regime began the full-time, wholesale burning of books considered "politically dangerous", as well as those written by Jewish and gay authors. This was merely prologue to the cultural "cleansing" of paintings and sculpture, more book burnings, and finally, the systematic executions of fifteen million human beings. We in the 21st century can scarcely imagine willingly following a government which engaged in these atrocities. Yet, 60 million Germans followed Hitler, and co-signed his policies of censorship and murder. It still happens in modern times, particularly in countries where draconian laws against homosexuality still exist.
It was anti-gay legislation that ultimately led to the demise of Provocateur Magazine, a showcase of gay erotic and classical artistic photography. During the early '90s, the magazine was circulated at newsstands and bookstores nationwide, until local bigots began complaining. Although "straight porn" magazines could be openly displayed on magazine stands, Provocateur drew fire from conservatives for its cover images of scantily-clad men. Citing "decency" and local anti-gay laws, they succeeded in getting the magazine pulled from shelves everywhere. Never mind that "fitness" magazines with shirtless men such as Exercise and For Men Only continued to be sold, Provocateur was relentlessly hounded by self-appointed judges of "acceptable" art. While the editors repeatedly stated their magazine was protected by the First Amendment, it didn't prevent widespread censorship of Provocateur from eventually killing the magazine. This is what we still face today in the LGBT community. So the next time you hear someone say "that's dangerous artwork", or "that book is inappropriate", run, do not walk, to get that book or see that artwork, because if they don't want you to see or read it, you should!