Tom Tabor Board Chair Stonewall National Museum & Archives 1300 East Sunrise Boulevard Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

Tom Tabor tomtabor@aol.com September 25, 2012 Dear Mr. Tabor, As a group uniting over 50 organizations dedicated to promoting the First Amendment right to free speech, the National Coalition Against Censorship is deeply concerned about the cancellation of Jeff Larson’s Men In Living Rooms exhibition at the National Stonewall Museum and Archives. We have been joined in our concern by a number of organizations and individuals working in the sphere of art and GLBT rights, including Visual AIDA an the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. We strongly urge you to reverse your decision and return the photographs to display for the scheduled duration of the show as well as to develop a clear exhibitions policy with specific criteria as to what can be shown at the Museum. Our understanding is that Men In Living Rooms was pre-approved by the Board of the Museum, put on display as scheduled in early September and, subsequently, taken down in response to complaints, some of which were voiced by Broward Stonewall Education Project Committee members. The exhibition was, hence, only seen for the duration of the opening reception on September 11th. In cancelling a scheduled – and pre-approved – show because some people may have found it inappropriate for school groups coming into the Museum, you open the door to expectations that programming at the Museum will be modified to suit the arbitrary judgment of individuals who subjectively consider some content inappropriate for children. While we laud your initiative to work with the Broward County School District and to educate students about LGBT history, that project should not lead to compromising the

mission of the Stonewall Museum and Archives by forcing the institution to steer clear of aspects of the LGBT community that some parents or teachers feel uncomfortable about. Such a policy would very likely lead to wholesale self-censorship on the part of your institution. As you are probably aware, LGBT material is regularly censored in school systems because of claims that it is inappropriate: just in the last few months, complaints over the use of Todd Parr’s The Family Book and other materials endorsed by GLSEN in an anti-bullying curriculum sparked censorship in the school district of Erie, Illinois. As it stands, all GLSEN materials and books on GLSEN reading lists are banned in Erie and teachers must direct any and all questions about non-traditional families or sexuality to a child’s parents. North of Salt Lake City, Utah, a parent’s complaint led to a book about a non-traditional family, Patricia Polacco’s In Our Mothers’ House, to be put under restricted access in school libraries. The book, which had been purchased specifically because the schools have students with two moms or two dads, can now only be accessed with a parental permission slip – if anyone knows it is even there. There have been incidents even at the college level: a few years ago, for instance, staged photographs of Ken and G. I. Joe dolls holding hands were removed from the photo gallery of Shelton State Community College (Tuscaloosa, AL) at the direction of the President who claimed that the images “created a negative impression” and were “offensive” and “controversial” because they might be interpreted as endorsing homosexuality. While none of the examples above are as provocative as Jeff Larson’s photographs, they demonstrate how broadly some groups in our society understand what is “inappropriate” for children and how ready they are to call for censorship of even the most “innocent” material. If the Stonewall Museum begins to cave to such complaints, where will it be able to draw the line? Jeff Larson’s photographs are unquestionably legal as to minors: not only are they not explicitly sexual, but they don’t even display full frontal nudity (the genitalia are covered). School groups can see much more explicit nudity in a regular art museum. The cancellation of Jeff Larson’s show thus raises the question whether, in deference to the often conservative, and even homophobic, sensitivities of the culture at large, the Stonewall National Museum & Archives will head down the slippery slope of censoring material that could be considered controversial by some and thus compromise its mission as “an epicenter of enlightenment for [the LGBT] community” which plays “a significant role in building bridges of cultural understanding in the LGBT community and beyond.” How is cultural understanding to be built, if the Museum caters to the very prejudices it seeks to oppose? Looking forward to your response,

Svetlana Mintcheva Director of Programs National Coalition Against Censorship

Nelson Santos Executive Director, Visual AIDS Jonathan David Katz President of the Board of Trustees Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art Bill Dobbs, ART Positive Hunter Reynolds, ART Positive Mike Blasenstein, Museum of Censored Art Tom Rauffenbart, Estate of David Wojnarowicz Ann Northrop, co-host, Gay USA Andy Humm - co-host, Gay USA Sarah Schulman - ACT UP Oral History Project Tony Feher - artist Geoffrey Hendricks - artist Sur Rodney Sur - archivist, curator Alice O'Malley - photographer Rich Wandel - NYC LGBT Center archivist/historian Amy Sadao - Director, Institute of Contemporary Art/University of Pennsylvania

Cc: Bryan W. Knicely President Stonewall National Museum & Archives bryan.knicely@stonewallnationalmuseum.org