I wanted to wait until after the week was over to write about my own experience in being a banned author. I think it might be a bit presumptuous to include any of my work in the list of lofty tomes that are cited this time of year. However, one of my first books, now long out of print, "I Contact: Sexuality and People With Intellectual Disabilities" caused such an upset when it was published in 1990. I knew, of course, that the topic was controversial and, though many won't believe it, I tried to write a gentle and humane book. I wanted to assert the right of people with intellectual disabilities to be adult and to be sexual and to be viewed as imbued with rights.
The book was received either as 'a breath of fresh air' or 'pornographic and disgusting' there was no middle ground. Both Joe and I remember finding an envelope, delivered to our home address, waiting for us when we returned home from work. We opened it without thought, suddenly the air filled with ash as burnt remnants of my book fell to the floor. Inside was a note telling me that I deserved death for even suggesting that 'innocents' be made 'filth.' We were shocked, and not a little scared. How did they get my home address?
That book led to other books and training videoes, I've had my books banned from agencies, I have been banned from lecturing in certain areas of the United States. I have been called a pornographer. I have been accused of pushing a homosexual agenda into human services. "Everything he touches he makes dirty," was stated in a letter to my employer from someone wanting me fired.
Behind banned books are banned authors. Some may revel in the controversy. I did not. I never expected such a surge of hatred aimed at me because I expressed my ideas - and I had the temerity to express them in print. How dare I?
But I'm glad I wrote those words. I'm hope that the ideas ... the 'ifs,' the 'maybes,' and the 'perhapses,' might have had a small part in changing minds and attitudes and ultimately had a part in making people freer.
The word most objected to, in my book, was 'love' ... the suggestion that people with disabilities could love another person was shocking, the fact that their love might also be sexual in nature was unthinkable..
Love still shocks people.
Words are as radical now as they were then - and while 'love' is the most radical of all ... 'if' may be the most hopeful.