The book banning boom continues.
What do you make of the ongoing attempts to restrict books with LGBTQ protagonists or themes?
This story is being repackaged, but it’s also being weaponized in a way I think is a bit different now.
In the 1990s, for instance, these narratives and themes were used largely to scare people into rejecting LGBTQ rights and in particular non-discrimination laws. One thing that’s different now is that, with social media being so prevalent and with the various ways we can interact with one another, we’re not necessarily seeing a broad allegation against the entire LGBTQ community. It’s an allegation targeted directly at individuals — a great degree of hatefulness is being projected at individuals in a way I don’t think we’ve really seen before.
So, you could be a teacher in a small town in Virginia or in a big city such as Chicago or Atlanta and suddenly you might have an account with a million followers targeting you and saying that you’re something you’re objectively not.
Could you give me more examples of past instances of this kind of anti-LGBTQ animus? I’d argue that there are sonorous echoes between the 1970s and today, for instance.
The animus that was driving those campaigns was, We need to keep gays and lesbians out of classrooms precisely because they’re an inherent danger to our children. They’re predatory. They’re recruiting.
In many respects, what’s happening now isn’t a new invention.
When minority groups and people who challenge the status quo gain a foothold, there will often be calls to oppose that progress. I think that we’re seeing those dynamics now.
What concerns do you have about how book bans might affect young people?
Well, tolerance is something we usually learn in our early school years. We reflect on who we are by engaging with the world, and we learn from others. So, suppressing a particular viewpoint or suppressing a particular group’s identity inhibits that natural educational process.
Often throughout US history, schools have been very contentious spaces. People fought desegregation in public schools because they feared that children in integrated schools would learn that there are more similarities than differences across people and then there would be friendships and marriages that would destabilize the social order.
I think that we’re seeing another iteration of that now. There’s a fear that if kids grow up seeing that sexuality or gender expression exists on a spectrum and that there’s nothing wrong with that, we’ll have a society that just accepts that. So, schools become the first line of defense because of how informative those early years are not only for how children think but also for how society evolves.