Today is National Coming Out Day, and this year we’re reflecting on the terrible impact banning books has on queer kids and their ability to feel safe coming out. At a time when attacks on the freedom to learn, often directly targeting queer content, are rising, it’s important to understand why these books matter and how banning them harms all students.
Book Banning Tends to Target LGBTQ Stories
More than half of the most banned books of last year feature LGBTQ content, and that’s hardly a coincidence. Groups like Moms for Liberty and other far-right extremists have orchestrated a nationwide plot to limit access to queer stories and information about queer people. From attempting to eliminate an entire social studies curriculum in Temecula, California, just because it contains references to Harvey Milk, to the removal of any books containing LGBTQ characters from an entire school district in Florida, far-right extremists around the country have found common ground in attacking inclusive education.
Students Need Stories to Feel Connected
Reading queer stories and seeing other queer people represented in media sends one simple yet absolutely essential message to queer young people: you are not alone. Conversely, having those stories stripped away, cast out, and treated like contraband can make kids feel isolated and ashamed. Whether the people banning books genuinely want to hurt queer kids or they just want a scapegoat to rant about in their donation emails doesn’t really matter. The fact is, removing access to information about queer people tells queer kids they don’t deserve to be represented in society, and it tells everyone else that queer people should be treated like outsiders.
Education is the Key to Acceptance
Honest and accurate information can demystify and legitimize. It can teach us to understand and appreciate each other, which in turn helps us live more peacefully together. Research has shown that diverse stories have a positive impact on student performance. All students benefit from honest education. They grow up to be community members who listen to and support one another. And learning about history, including the long history of oppression against LGBTQ people, is the surest way to avoid repeating it. That should be the goal of education—creating a supportive, inclusive, truth-focused and forward-thinking society. That can only happen if we defend honest, uplifting stories instead of banning books.
Protecting the Freedom to Learn Helps Protect LGBTQ Youth
Even in 2023, it can be hard to come out. Worry and fear over acceptance by friends and family is real, but we can and must make it a little easier on queer kids by fighting for their right to see themselves reflected. Seeing good people push back against book banning tells queer kids they’re deserving of protection and of the opportunity to live as their authentic selves.
At People For, we’ve been defending the freedom to learn for all people for more than 40 years. Today, despite the rising attacks against queer representation, we’re not giving up. We’re working for a world in which everyone has the right to be themselves and no child has to fear adults ripping away their right to read the books they need.
We need your help to keep this important work going. Please consider making a donation, becoming a member of People For, or joining our anti-book-banning program Grandparents For Truth. (you don’t need to be a grandparent to join!). You can also participate in our Banned Books Reading Challenge to show your support and win exciting People For gear. With your help we can push back against the onslaught of book banning occurring today and build a more inclusive future for everyone.