Lately book banning has been in the news again. So many books, especially books written by and centering the stories of marginalized people, are on the list. Especially books about queerness and transness.
Closer to (my new) home a local high school had their production of a musical cancelled because of complaints about a very veiled reference to a gay couple.
These bans are always framed (by the banners) to be about protecting children. Protecting them from dangerous ideas. Protecting them from “dangerous lifestyles”. Protecting them from things they are too young for. And those opposed to book banning right point to the dangers of curtailing literature and speech, the dangers of hiding ideas away.
But today I want to talk about the kids.
When that high school cancelled the musical, they sent a message to their gay students that their loves are shameful and shouldn’t be talked about.
When schools ban books, they send a message to their queer kids that not only should they not have access to their own stories and histories, but that their stories shouldn’t even exist.
When organizations say that queer stories are “adult” they tell kids that their lives and loves are explicit and sexual and impure.
All of these things send a message to kids that they don’t belong. That there is something wrong with them. That they don’t have a place in the world.
These bans were never about protecting they have always been about eradicating. Erasing ideas and identities that are seen as a threat to those in power. Ideas and identities that call into question the racist, heterosexist, patriarchal structures that prop our society up (and that they want to maintain).
Like so many things, it’s never about protection, it’s always about power and who they want to keep from it.
But here’s the thing: it also never works. You cannot erase trans kids and queer kids. We have always existed and we will continue to exist. What these bans and cancellations do is make us suffer. And honestly? Maybe that’s the whole point.
“But I already know all of this” you might say. Great. Then let’s get to work. Lets not only find ways to get books into the hands of kids, lets also show up at school board meetings (hell, run for the school board) and speak out in favor of art and books. Let’s create spaces where kids can find the resources they need. Let’s make art that celebrates queer and trans kids. Let’s advocate for queer and trans characters in children’s television and media. When there are queer/trans characters in kids shows, let’s make sure we are loud with our support.
The people who want us eradicated are loud, powerful, and well-organized. In order to push them back we have to be louder, smarter, and more relentless. This is the time to stand together and fight with everything we’ve got.
Our kids are counting on us.