My book Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens, written with Kathy Belge, has been banned or “contested” in Oklahoma, Idaho, Texas, Florida, and even Maine, as part of the madness that has gripped conservatives over how basic information about identity, culture, and sexuality is somehow “grooming” young people. “Grooming” for what, exactly? Personal health? Self-empowerment and acceptance? Not killing themselves?
Now, this whole ridiculousness has escalated into truly fascist territory, as a Republican candidate for Missouri Secretary of State took to the internet this week and burned our book in a viral video, promising to torch all books like it in public libraries if she is elected. I would laugh at her flimsy, Home Alone-looking DIY flamethrower if this wasn’t all quite horrifying!
In response, Kathy and I are urging people to donate and support the GLO Center, the LGBTQ+ youth organization in Springfield, Missouri, which is doing so much to keep access to life-saving information available and to combat anti-trans and anti-queer legislation and rhetoric.
The number of books that are being banned throughout the country is already rising alarmingly—in some cases entire libraries are disappearing or being compromised in the wake of Draconian new laws, or from fear of drawing the ire of hysterical politicians. (An adorable picture book about gay penguins, for goodness sake, has become one of the most banned books in the US.)
The literate community has fought back, from all-night banned books readings and prominent banned book displays year-round at bookstores to publishing a huge list of books that have been banned on a major newspaper’s front page. Governor Newsom signed into law a prohibition on banning schoolbooks due to racial and LGBTQ issues. Honestly, I thought this nonsense would have died down a bit by now, but perhaps this is a taste of what’s to come under President Trump—oh, wait, this is happening under President Biden already.
Contrary to popular opinion, the bans have not made me a millionaire due to publicity; I still work four jobs like the rest of us. And the book, originally released in 2011 (before nationwide same-sex marriage! Before Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”!) and updated in 2020, is gloriously out of date on a few things, since our emancipation as queer people continues accelerating apace—exactly what these idiots are afraid of—and our young people, as always, are blazing new trails of identity and being. I love them so much, we must protect them at all cost.
Still, Queer provides tons of timely and plainspoken, honest information about history, dating, sexual health, social situations, and how to combat bullies. When the book first came out it was the only guide of its kind. Now there are dozens of books directly addressing trans, non-binary, gender-fluid, bisexual, asexual, questioning, and every other kind of kid there is—even straight ones! How cool is that.
I continue to write and educate young people on essential things they aren’t necessarily taught about in schools. (If any major publisher out there wants to take me up on a history of queer pop culture for teens, I’m down to write that one next!) But as the fury continues to grow around us and access to information and affirmation is impeded, I’m afraid my next book may be, simply, “How to survive.”
I’m not one for Godwin’s Law (even when Godwin himself said it’s OK to use it), but queer and trans people were the first major targets of book burnings during a certain regime. And, as my astute friend Gerard Koskovich—queer historian, archivist, and book collector—put it, “someone needs to tell the candidate her footage is supposed to be in the original black-and-white.” Let’s work toward that mess not happening again.