Ban on children’s book ‘Same-sex Parents’ backfires down under

Same-sex Parents bookcover

Screenshot: Sky News Australia YouTube video – Same-sex parenting book ban defended by Cumberland City Councillor

When Sydney’s Cumberland City Council placed a ban on the book Same-sex Parents in its eight public libraries, it was bound to cause controversy. In addition, the issue highlighted Australia’s record of historical and current censorship.

There was immediate online outrage. David Tyler, aka Urban Wronski, summed up the negative reactions:

Shannon Molloy is a self-described “God-loving homosexual and senior reporter” at He argued, tongue-in-cheek, that other books in the library such as the Bible and Quran should be banned because of their “extreme themes” and “explicit and graphic” content. He wasn’t just “being facetious”:

It also demonstrates that censorship — which flies in the face of an open and free society and the democratic values we hold dear — is a very slippery slope.

This is an innocent book about same-sex parents, made with love and understanding in mind.

There was also a political backlash to the council vote, including the New South Wales State government. The NSW arts minister, John Graham, even suggested that the libraries could face funding cuts.

City councillor Steve Christou was criticized for not having read the book, even as he led the push for a ban:

Like many attempts at banning material, this has become another instance of the Streisand Effect, where an attempt to suppress something only gets it more attention. A similar situation unfolded in 2023 with the sex education book “Welcome to Sex” in Australia.

In fact, the publishers immediately made ‘Same-sex Parents’ available online for free:

One online petition to reverse the ban had over 40,000, with another exceeding 10,000 signatures before the Cumberland Council overturned its ban in a decisive vote of 12 to 2. Many people on social media, such as Tim Richards on Mastodon, were relieved:

Penni Russon, Senior Lecturer at Monash University, examined some of the history of book banning, highlighting the recent example of “Gender Queer,” a 2019 graphic memoir by US author Maia Kobabe that details the author's experience of coming out as gender fluid (Kobabe uses Spivak pronouns: e, em, eir)

The book has been the source of ongoing controversy and the subject of much conservative ire both in Australia and internationally. “Gender Queer” was referred to the Australian Classification Board (ACB), a statutory body “responsible for the classification and censorship of films, video games and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in Australia”. It received an Unrestricted (M – Not recommended for readers under 15 years) classification.

It is now subject to court action with conservative activist Bernard Gaynor taking the Federal Minister for Communication and the ACB to the Federal Court over a Review Board decision to uphold the classification.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a five-part podcast series Banned Books. The fourth episode Gender Queer in Australia concerns Maia Kobabe's memoir.

According to the producer/presenter Sarah L'Estrange, it is “the most banned book in the USA and now it's being challenged in the courts in Australia”. She explores the question, “Has the battlefront of the US book-banning movement arrived in Australia”.

Australia has a long history of banning books, especially before the 1970s. High-profile examples included: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, James Baldwin's Another Country and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita was banned until 1965 but was smuggled by returning overseas travellers in brown paper covers.

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