The right-wing banning of LGBTQ+ books and the fight to stop them

When the staff of the American Library Association Analyzing recent efforts to ban or censor books, he noted several disturbing trends. Not only the ten most contested works from 2021 deal with gender identity, sexuality, and race, but most of them were also written by people of color.

“Restricting what children can read has always been on the agenda of the Christian right.”

“LGBTQIA+ books have been among the most contested works since 2018, but there have been increasing efforts to confuse gender or sexual identity with pornography or pedophilia,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the Bureau for intellectual freedom from the American Library Association. The progressive.

And although the American Library Association does not believe that any of the targeted titles meet the legal definition of pornography– which forces them to lack “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” and appeal to “lustful” interests – the right-wing effort to “protect children” has succeeded in limiting what children can read in some parts of the country.

Last year, the association followed 729 challenges for 1,597 booksan increase from 377 challenges in 2020 and 156 in 2019.

One of the most frequent targets is George M. Johnson’s award-winning film Not all boys are blue, a coming-of-age story about growing up as a queer black kid. Johnson’s 2020 release has been taken from libraries in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Virginia.

Likewise, Maia Kobabe Gender Queer: A Memoir on non-binary identity, has been removed from schools in Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

“Restricting what children can read has always been on the agenda of the Christian right,” says Caldwell-Stone. “Over the past few decades, they have carefully built an infrastructure to deny human rights to gay people. As this is a time when conservatives control many state and local governments, they feel they can introduce legislation or pressure schools or libraries to limit what children can read and learn.

No left turn in education, one of the strongest supporters of book bans, refers to the removal of books as “restoring parenthood to public education” and sees its mission as repelling “radical indoctrination and the injection of ‘policy agendas in K-12 education’. According to the organization’s website, “Too often, words like diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, systemic racism, human rights and health education hide aggressive and radical ideology.”

Next to Moms for Freedom and Parents defending educationNo Left Turn’s perspective attracted right-wing media attention, and its message was promoted by Fox News and long-established conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the Leadership Institute.

And that attention paid off.

Ruth Weiner, Director of Publicity for Seven Story Press, has been the victim of right-wing animosity. “Sometimes it’s just two or three or four vocal people controlling ten different media streams, and they’re turning them all on at once in protest,” she says.

More recently, the 2008 Picture Book 10,000 dresses, by Marcus Ewart, about a child whose family insists that boys cannot wear dresses, has caught the attention of the right. “It’s disheartening for us and for our writers when a book is targeted,” Weiner says. “But it comes in waves. A group gets wind of a book and there is a call. It will explode on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or Twitter for a few weeks or so. We try to ignore it and block senders.

“The law acts as if books are being pushed on children when in fact young people choose to read books about LGBTQIA+ identity and racism and find affirmation in seeing themselves reflected in someone’s story. else.”

This, she adds, usually causes protesters to shift their attention elsewhere. A frequent target: the growing body of books on trans identity and gender diversity that serve as reliable outrage generators for those threatened by the scorn of a rigid male-female binomial.

Winter Miller, author of the newly released children’s book not a cat– which features an alleged cat, Gato, who wonders if he could also be a rabbit, a cow, a duck, a horse or a human – says that books telling readers that “it’s good for you to be yourself, to be who you are meant to be and not be boxed in by gender expectations, can be unsettling for some people.

But this is nothing new. “The right wing has been in deep shit for a long time,” Miller said. “Remember Anita Bryant’s Homophobia save our children campaign? It was launched in 1977.

Nonetheless, Miller notes several things that differentiate today’s attacks on queer writers and queer-affirming books from previous campaigns. “Social media makes it easier for people to aggregate their hate,” she says. “The right has also been emboldened by the anti-mask and anti-vax response to COVID. This unifying call to arms has now turned to schools and libraries” and works in concert with movements to oppose abortion, gun control, school sex education, affirmative action and critical race theory.

Caldwell-Stone agrees with Miller’s assessment. Yet she is also encouraged by the growing initiatives to fight book bans and censorship, from banned book reading groups to community readings and more conventional protests.

“We’ve seen that when people stand up at a school or library board meeting and object to the removal of books, books are much less likely to be removed from the shelves. “, she says. “When students testify about how specific books have helped them find a way forward, helped them feel less scared or alone, or helped them cope with a struggling friend, it has made them people to wonder what the deletions actually mean.The law acts as if books are being pushed on children when in fact young people choose to read books about LGBTQIA+ identity and racism and find affirmation in themselves. seeing reflected in someone else’s story.

Groups fighting book bans, notes Caldwell-Stone, include Red, wine and blue, FReadom fightersand the American Library Association United against book bans and Freedom to Read Foundation.

Moreover, both the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library launched programs to allow anyone over the age of thirteen, in any part of the country, free access to e-book or audiobook versions of many banned titles.

The answer should be quick since most Americans oppose bans and censorship. According to an American Library Association poll conducted earlier this year, 71% of respondents said they were against removing books from public or school libraries. Among parents, 74% told researchers that they trust librarians to know which books to suggest for use in the classroom or outside of school. That, Caldwell-Stone adds, crosses party lines, with 75% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans supporting broad access to materials.

“Libraries don’t make choices for readers,” she says. “They provide access to works that appeal to a wide audience of readers. If parents want to keep their children away from certain materials, they can do so.

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