First and foremost, please let me welcome you to my new location for my blog.  Housing two blogs was cumbersome and confusing for me; thus, my solution was to consolidate.  I’m also setting a personal goal to be more consistent.  I find that blogging is one of the conduits through which I process my thoughts, and making them public seems to aid in this therapeutic processing.

I have heavily debated my recent absence from the blogging world, wondering whether I was relying too much on the external validation of some of my intimate personal thoughts and feelings.  But I find no shame in sharing them, especially if others can connect to them and find solace.  Therefore, I am going to continue, not only because external validation is not entirely a bad thing, but also because I enjoy connecting with others through my experiences.

I digress.

Today’s post is neither about my personal struggles nor my return to blogging; rather, it is about an extremely unjust encounter I had today while online.

As a teacher of young children, and in light of Illinois’ recent ruling on gay marriage, I decided that I wanted to find out if there were any resources or news articles that would be relatable to and appropriate for children.  In the midst of my search, this disheartening message popped up:

Screen shot 2013-11-11 at 7.49.53 AM

You can only imagine my dismay.  Forbidden category. Gay and Lesbian Issues.

What bothered me the most about this issue was that a reputable company, such as Dell, who is the creator and distributor of the SonicWall program, would even allow such nonsense within their programming to begin with.  However, it would only seem that this manifestation of censorship is only a representation for a broader problem within our society.  It seems that this company, in particular, believes that blocking out this sort of information solves some sort of perceived problem–that filtering out gay/lesbian websites makes this no longer an issue.

When actually, the words Forbidden Category: Gay and Lesbian Issues only seems to exacerbate the problem and draw it more to our attention than actually solving anything.

I was in such a flurry of frustration that I immediately composed a letter to the company–one which I would encourage you to copy, paste, and send to the people at SonicWall/Dell (e-mail:  See my reply below:

To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing today to communicate a rather disconcerting issue that has recently been brought to my attention.  While searching for articles related to same-sex marriage today, the filter popped up Forbidden Category: Gay and Lesbian Issues.  
As a gay man, I find this extremely offensive and would hope you could reconsider the name of the filter that you choose for these topics.  Same-sex relationships are not inappropriate for children; the physical and explicit nature of sex is, and an article related to same-sex marriage does not always mean there will be sexually explicit content.  Having said this, the website that I visited did, in fact, end up having some content that would be inappropriate for children.  However, this content should have been more correctly coded as Forbidden Category: Sexual Content.
In my mind, it would be like filtering an article with explicit photos on slave mistreatment in the 1800s as “African American Issues.”  Of course, we would not want children to see disturbing photos depicting violence; however, we would code them as Forbidden Category: Violence.
It is my hope that my correspondence inspires you to make some changes to the way that you filter your websites.  By placing the words “Forbidden Category” next to phrases such as “Gay and Lesbian Issues,” you are perpetuating a culture that only enforces fear of diversity and judgment of those who are genetically predispositioned outside of the “norm.”  This is especially ironic, when one of your filters is entitled “Violence, Hate, and Racism.”
Thank you for considering my perspective, and the perspective of millions of other customers with whom you work.
All in all, my frustration with this matter simply highlights the larger problem here–that instead of talking about difficult issues and promoting tolerance (notice, I did not use the word “agreement”), we, as a society choose to shield people from it.  This shielding only promotes fear, and this fear only promotes senseless acts of prejudice, discrimination, and hate.
Let’s try something new.  Let’s open up our minds, accept that there are many diverse viewpoints, and come to terms that we don’t all agree.  Let’s have a discussion, encourage debate, and promote divergent thinking.  I think we’ll all be better off for it in the long run.

6 thoughts

  1. Just a couple of brief things to keep in mind:

    1. Dell bought SonicWALL, but relatively recently and they don’t manufacture the devices themselves. SonicWALL existed for a decade or so operating on their own and likely keep their autonomy, just under the Dell umbrella. And I say this as someone who despises Dell, just for other reasons.
    2. The reason these webfilter firewalls suck is because they come out of the box with crappy general settings. For instance, there is an option in most of these devices to block all “sexuality related topics/sites”, which could easily block the Robert Crown Center along with this gay marriage discussion site. You’d have to check to be sure at your school, but it’s not uncommon.
    3. Regardless, if you asked to have the site unblocked and your administrator refused, you have a solid case for complaint on your hands. He should be able to whitelist specific sites and this site sure as hell seems to fit nicely within a teaching resource.
    4. Also regardless, the wording of the blocked category is idiotic. The moratorium on discussing all sexuality with children is idiotic, so keep up the good fight.

    1. Good to know. The site itself should be blocked, because there is some explicit sexual content, but it shouldn’t be blocked because it related to “gay and lesbian issues.”

      1. Exactly. The wording on that category is atrocious. The good news is that it was probably actually inputted into the firmware back in nineteen-ninety-ignorance-time….

  2. I, too, have encountered this block by Sonic Wall, but never thought to do anything about it. I’m glad you have. I hope their response is favourable. 🙂

    ~ BJF

  3. I have used SonicWALL products for the last decade. Each site can choose what categories they want to block. You must purchase that feature, and configure it.

    As with other schools who have used the same products, they have assumed that Gay and Lesbian Issues are ponography. I have always thought that that category exists for the religious right.

    If something is sexual in nature, it should be in another gategory.

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