If there’s one thing we can count on conservatives to do, it’s … Ban books? Apparently yes, even in 2022. As we get closer to midterm elections this November, we’ve seen Republicans at all levels of government stir anti-queer hysteria by launching attacks on vulnerable trans people when it comes to sports, health care, and even the basic dignity of safe bathroom access. We’ve also seen anti-queer rhetoric more broadly come up in Don't Say Gay bills and efforts to get Pride flags and discussions of pronouns out of classrooms.
And, of course, the book bans. Conservatives are out to get books by and about queer writers (as well as writers of color, and especially queer writers of color) but most seem to know they can’t simply say they don’t want books by and about LGBTQ+ people in public schools and libraries. So they describe these books as “obscene” or “pornographic” or “inappropriate,” all of which are perfectly in tune with the “grooming” hysteria the party is pushing to further demonize queer people. It’s hateful, discriminatory, and scary. It’s also concerningly effective.
One recent example of book ban hysteria comes to us from a school district in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, where a book was temporarily removed from a public high school library by police after a parent complained, as covered by the Houston Chronicle. Yes, you read that correctly. By police.
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Katy Independent School District confirmed to the outlet that a copy of Flamer by Mike Curato was removed from the library after a parent of a high school student filed a police report saying the material was harmful to minors. Flamer is a graphic novel for teens about queer identity, self-discovery, and self-love and acceptance in the 1990s.
These books are always relevant and important for young readers, but especially in today’s world, where young queer people and allies are hearing so much anti-LGBTQ+ messaging from elected officials and candidates. But of course, conservatives ultimately want to erase queer people and think they can stomp queerness out of youth.
If this all sounds more than a little familiar, it’s likely because the school district has become infamous for its book bans. During a school board meeting on Monday, for example, concerned community members spoke out against book ban efforts that have resulted in the district pulling 10 books deemed “pervasively vulgar” under vague qualifications.
Mind you, parents can already be notified about each book their youth checks out from the library, which is in itself a violation of privacy and clearly dangerous for questioning or queer youth who aren’t safe coming “out” to their families or guardians.
Mom and professional counselor Anne Russey accurately pointed out queer people and other minority communities are being targeted in these bans and that it’s ultimately harmful.
“They are not pornographic books,” Russey said at the meeting, per local outlet KHOU 11. Instead, she points out they’re written to “tell a story,” not with the intent of “arousing anybody.”
The big picture policy in the school district is that anyone who resides in the district can file a complaint about a library book; they don’t necessarily have to be a parent or have a child enrolled in the school district. From there, according to Texas Monthly, the district pulls the book from circulation for up to one month for a “formal review” while a committee considers the content of the book. The aforementioned “pervasively vulgar” category can result in a book being banned entirely or limited to specific grade levels.
Republicans aren’t trying to hide the queerphobia in their policies anymore, if they ever were to begin with. But young people are suffering—and they’re relying us on to vote and advocate on their behalf.
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