Most Book Bans Driven by Tiny Minority of Activists; LGBTQ Themes Central to ObjectionsBreaking News
tags: censorship, LGBTQ history, Book Bans
Books about LGBTQ people are fast becoming the main target of a historic wave of school book challenges — and a large percentage of the complaints come from a minuscule number of hyperactive adults, a first-of-its-kind Washington Post analysis found.
A stated wish to shield children from sexual content is the main factor animating attempts to remove LGBTQ books, The Post found. The second-most common reason cited for pulling LGBTQ texts was an explicit desire to prevent children from reading about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary and queer lives.
The Post requested copies of all book challenges filed in the 2021-2022 school year with the 153 school districts that Tasslyn Magnusson, a researcher employed by free expression advocacy group PEN America, tracked as receiving formal requests to remove books last school year. In total, officials in more than 100 of those school systems, which are spread across 37 states, provided 1,065 complaints totaling 2,506 pages.
The Post analyzed the complaints to determine who was challenging the books, what kinds of books drew objections and why. Nearly half of filings — 43 percent — targeted titles with LGBTQ characters or themes, while 36 percent targeted titles featuring characters of color or dealing with issues of race and racism. The top reason people challenged books was “sexual” content; 61 percent of challenges referenced this concern.
In nearly 20 percent of the challenges, petitioners wrote that they wanted texts pulled from shelves because the titles depict lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, homosexual, transgender or nonbinary lives. Many challengers wrote that reading books about LGBTQ people could cause children to alter their sexuality or gender.
“The theme or purpose of this book is to confuse our children and get them to question whether they are a boy or a girl,” a North Carolina challenger wrote of “Call Me Max,” which centers on a transgender boy.
A Texas challenger wrote that “King and the Dragonflies,” which tells the story of a Black 12-year-old in Louisiana grappling with his attraction to men, will give “ideas to children [on how to] discover that they are gay [and] how to persuade others they may be gay as well.”
And in Georgia, a challenger wrote of “The Poet X,” which features a same-sex couple: “Books like this is where teens get the idea it’s ok!”
A small number of people were responsible for most of the book challenges, The Post found. Individuals who filed 10 or more complaints were responsible for two-thirds of all challenges. In some cases, these serial filers relied on a network of volunteers gathered together under the aegis of conservative parents’ groups such as Moms for Liberty.
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