The most recent rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric has been heavily focused on students and what they should and should not be exposed to in the classroom. School libraries have been forced to pull certain books off their shelves, while teachers have been told to remove books from their syllabi. 

What’s the current state of banned books?

PEN America, a watchdog and advocacy group for freedom of expression, literature and human rights, found that books with LGBTQ+ themes or characters make up a significant portion of currently banned books. According to PEN, 33% of banned books (379 books) deal with LGBTQ+ issues, “including a distinct subset of 84 titles that deal with transgender characters and topics (7%).” Books with protagonists of color were also heavily targeted, making up 41% of the list. 

The list of banned material includes everything from picture books intended for children under five to young adult and classic adult novels. Texas leads the list with most books banned by a massive margin, with 713 banned books throughout 16 school districts. 

What books are being banned? 

The three books with the highest number of bans in the United States feature LGBTQ+ themes: “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison. When the Patmos Library in Michigan’s Jamestown Township refused to bow to demands to remove Kobabe’s book, the community voted down a millage to keep the library open. In response, famed romance novelist Nora Roberts donated $50,000 to the library to keep its doors open for the time being. 

Other banned or challenged books include: 

“Call Me Max” by Kyle Lukoff. A picture book featuring a young transgender child who wants his teacher to call him Max. 

“Plenty of Hugs” by Fran Manushkin. A picture book about two moms and their toddler spending the day together. 

“We Are the Ants” by Shaun David Hutchinson. After being abducted many times by aliens, gay teenager Henry is left with the decision to save the world (or not) from destruction. 

“Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out” by Susan Kuklin. This nonfiction book is the culmination of interviews with trans and nonbinary teens. 

How does a book get banned?

There are several ways books get banned and it can depend on factors including how the school districts evaluate content, school board appointments, parents or the community raising issues. 

Reasons given for banning these books include LGBTQIA+ content, considered to be sexually explicit, providing sexual education and profanity among other reasons. For example, in the Keller, Texas school district, out of the 43 books challenged between 2021 and 2022, 36 were brought up for potential ban by parents of students.

What can be done?

You can support banned books by participating in Banned Books Week, coming up Sept. 18-24. “All Boys Aren’t Blue” ​​author George M. Johnson has been named Honorary Chair for this year’s events. 

Read up on the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights

Attend school board and local Parent Teacher Association meetings and speak out when bans are introduced. 

Support banned authors and donate additional copies of books to communities where books are banned in some locations. 

Are LGBTQ+ books being banned in your local school districts or libraries? Let us know at newsisout@localmedia.org

Dana Piccoli

Editor of News is Out