Roy and Silo are Gay…and Dumbledore Makes Three!

Sep 26, 2008

Posted by: abandonedboyjon


Happy Banned Books Week, everyone! This week, in celebration, I’m blogging about the most challenged book of 2006 and 2007, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (illustrated by Henry Cole, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005). In case you are unfamiliar, Tango is the story of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who fell in love and started a family, with the help of a zoo keeper, who provided them with a fertilized egg. The chick that hatched was named Tango (“it takes two to make a Tango!”) and the fathers taught her to sing and swim and snuggle and they all lived happily ever after. It’s a charming book. The story is based on the lives of three real penguins at the Central Park Zoo and their zookeeper, Rob Gramzay. The real Roy and Silo got together in 1998. In 2000, a female penguin, Betty, laid two eggs and since she had had trouble caring for two in the past, the second egg, Tango’s egg, was given to Roy and Silo. The penguins had previously attempted to make a nest for a stone, which they cared for and kept warm, but of course, did not produce a chick. The second time around, they had more luck and little Tango was born. I’ve since read reports that say that the couple have split up, ever since Silo took up with a female penguin named Scrappy. Maybe there will be a sequel that talks about the lives of mixed families!

The book makes no qualms about its inclusion of gay themes. Even in the front of the book, where you find suggestions for library classifications, the book lists itself under not only “penguin” and “family behavior in animals’ but also “homosexuality.” In Shiloh, Illinois, Lilly Del Pinto, whose daughter was five at the time, tried to get the book moved to the restricted section at the public elementary school’s library. Del Pinto stated that she knew that eventually children were going to learn about homosexuality, but that she wanted to reserve the right to parent her kids and to decide when they were ready for such information. It was no joy for Del Pinto. Under the advice of the attorney general, the superintendent refused to move the book. In libraries in Savannah, Missouri, however, the book resides in the non-fiction section, where it is less likely, in the words of library director Barbara Read, to “blindside” someone.

The thing is, I agree with Del Pinto in one way. Ages 4-8 is too early for a child to learn about homosexuality, but it’s also too early for said child to learn about sexuality and sex, period. Tango certainly isn’t about sexuality; it’s about parenting. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a children’s fiction book for eight and younger that actually explored sexuality. For the 4-8 crowd, the only remotely sexual relationship seen is the parents and that sexuality is inferred from the fact that it is usually a married heterosexual couple being depicted. However, we know that that isn’t the only kind of parents that exist. In every community, there are all kinds of parents and living situations. How could a public library make a book unavailable when it works to represent the community? What about the children of gay parents who never read about situations like the one they have at home? What about the other children who don’t know about different kinds of families and grow up thinking about families with gay parents as somehow different? The loss of such a book would be great indeed.

The sexuality of a good parent is something that shouldn’t bother people, though clearly, it does. Bringing it back to Potter, one of the things I found most striking about the comment-apocalypse that ensued after Dumbledore’s outing was the immediate theorizing about how this changed Harry and Dumbledore’s relationship, which many readers have likened to a grandson-grandfather type connection. Now that Dumbledore was gay (for certain), suddenly he was a pedophile. Any level-headed person knows this is hogwash, of course, but the comments came with such frequency that, at the time, I felt the need to stand up for him, and for Jo. None of the people on the boards had And Tango Makes Three read to them at night when they were kids. But they did have Potter. In fact, they loved Potter. And they knew Dumbledore well. After all the Deathly Hallows secrets were revealed, Albus Dumbledore truly was a remarkable man, and he certainly loved Harry. He also loved Gellert Grindelwald. And who wouldn’t? Even from those brief descriptions, I always pictured him as a real cutie. That was not important enough to be included in thousands of pages of Potter. What was important, what comprised much of the final tome of the series, was the emotional breakdown that ensued after Harry lost the parental figure with whom he had spent the most time. In the end, Dumbledore did do some things that were underhanded and definitely made him look bad, but he was a good parent. He trusted his child, he had faith in him. He willingly died because he knew in his heart that Harry would carry on until Voldemort was finished. And his love for Harry was great enough that even before all secrets were revealed and even before Harry had all the answers he so craved, he was able to chose trust over doubt. That’s a powerful, exemplary bond. It’s certainly one I would hope to have with my future kids someday.

Stay tuned for next week when I will be continuing the discussion of Albus Dumbledore with a blog about the Gellert/Albus relationship and the Grindeldorians who love them!


The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.