One way to keep books by and about LGBTQ people on the shelves? Hide them from the GOP

One way to keep books by and about LGBTQ people on the shelves? Hide them from the GOP

We’re still trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, gun violence and police brutality continue to endanger everyone (especially people of color and Black men in particular), and Republicans are gearing up for the midterm elections by … banning books. Ah yes, the Republican way: distract and enrage. 

As Daily Kos has covered at length, we know conservatives are trying to attack marginalized folks on all fronts. The anti-trans bills, targeted mostly at access to health care and sports participation, are one level. Critical race theory (CRT) hysteria is another layer. ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws are yet another. Book bans in public schools and libraries tie these issues together in a neat way: Parents become confused and outraged, school boards are swamped by conservative fearmongers, and marginalized and vulnerable young people have valuable resources taken away from them, or at the least, demonized in front of them. 

One recent example, as reported by the Acadiana Advocate, comes to us from Lafayette Parish public libraries, where according to the outlet, book displays that highlight LGBTQ+ people, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Native American history, and Cajun heritage are no longer allowed.

Here’s the thing: The library director’s reasoning might surprise you.

RELATED: Gay teacher in Iowa resigns after having been blackmailed over sexual orientation

Danny Gillane, who serves as library director, told the outlet he feels like if he puts “these books” on display right now he feels like he’s “inviting people to challenge” them. He said he’s ultimately trying to protect the collection of books and movies available in the library. Several books and one movie have been challenged in the library in the past year, including the young adult book Republicans love to hate called This Book is Gay. The film is a documentary, which now is only available to library patrons over the age of 17, as it includes some nudity.

Elie Mystal is on Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast today

So, what displays are going up in the library instead? According to Gillane, displays will center around basic genres like poetry, romance, mystery, and science fiction. 

This story presents an interesting and complex predicament; on the one hand, it’s censorship. On the other hand, it’s protection. Young people won’t see themselves celebrated in a space that can be a soothing balm for many young readers in a world filled with a whole lot of hate and violence. But if vindictive school board members are looking to cause trouble, perhaps the lack of obvious displays will lead them to miss titles they’d try to otherwise ban. 

Even having the display center around “safer” categories, like romance and mystery, has obvious nuances. Are all of these books going to focus only on cisgender, heterosexual, white people? Will they be written by cisgender, heterosexual, white people? If not, then isn’t there room for people to get riled up and call for a ban, anyway? Some people—especially young people—might go to the library in search of a title, but some are going to stumble upon ideas and concepts they didn’t know about otherwise just by walking by, perhaps, a book display. 

At the end of the day, censorship is censorship. Librarians shouldn’t have to essentially hide books in order to keep them on the shelves. We shouldn’t need to sneak around in order to avoid censorship and backlash. 

Sign the petition: Transgender children deserve all our love, support, and gender-affirming care​​​​​

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