Two artists are disappointed after moving their show that included LGBTQ sex education from a Calgary Public Library branch after the library objected to some of the content.
Maddie Alexander and Morgan Sears-Williams were set to display their show, titled Femme4Femme, at Memorial Park Library in Calgary as part of the annual Femme Wave festival.
The show, which the pair have shown in other cities, examines femme identities and includes work about safer LGBTQ sex, including a video that displays objects like dental dams and gloves.
But when Sears-Williams went to set up the show at the library, it didn't go according to plan.
"We were speaking to one of the librarians there and asked them to read through [a poster,] and at that point they got their manager," Sears-Williams told BuzzFeed News.
That manager, she said, told her that the poster was "sexually explicit" and would not be allowed. The poster included imagery from a vintage lesbian magazine, along with safer-sex tips, such as washing your hands, and included the word "fisting."
"She said we wouldn’t be able to put up the poster but we could put up the other work," said Sears-Williams.
None of the work in the show contained sexual imagery, said Alexander.
"What gets me is how and why queer sex is still viewed as offensive in any way," they added.
"I actually pre-censored the work before sending it to make sure it didn’t have any potentially offensive words," they told BuzzFeed News.
Mary Kapusta, a spokesperson for the Calgary Public Library, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that a poster that included the "Do's and Don'ts of Fisting" was the point of contention. She said the library stands with the manager's decision.
"I would note that our staff hoped that we could keep the rest of the exhibit up as I understand that it showcased same-sex relationships and that content is certainly in-line with our programming, but we respect that the artists wanted to keep it as a complete collection," said Kapusta.
Alexander and Sears-Williams feel the work the library objected to is an integral part of the show.
"I said that we would have to move venues then because we are not willing to compromise and take this part of the exhibition," said Sears-Williams.
In a statement, Femme Wave organizers said they stand by the artists.
"Given the violent history of erasure of queer sexual health education and its detrimental effects, removal of such conversation is a form of censorship which directly affects the livelihoods of queer and trans people," the statement said.
The show is now being displayed at Pin Bar, a local bar. While the artists are happy it found a home, they're upset with the library's decision. Particularly, they thought the library was a perfect space for education and for reaching local LGBTQ youth.
"The whole intention of the exhibit was about education," said Alexander. "I think that’s why it was so severely disappointing."