It was only a matter of time before the “Don’t Say Gay” bill of Florida and the wave of similar anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed throughout the country made its way to the federal level.

Congressman Mike Johnson (Louisiana) introduced the “Stop the Sexualization of Children” Act into the House this week. The bill would “prohibit the use of Federal funds to develop, implement, facilitate, or fund any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10, and for other purposes.” The bill would disallow funding for any organization — from libraries to schools to medical facilities and more — offering any materials or programming related to “sexually oriented material” to people under the age of 10. The vagueness of this definition is precisely the point, as it would open the door for vast interpretation and would not only lead to censorship but would lead to the persecution of any individual who does not align with perceived notions of “appropriate.”

As writer Alejandra Cabarello points out, the provision within the bill for “Private Right of Action” is an open bounty for individuals to file lawsuits against anyone using federal funds, banning any and all discussion of LGBTQ+ people and topics wherein there might be children under 10.

This means a queer elementary school educator may be unable to do their job, simply because they are queer. Or because they show a film that one parent may disagree with and choose to interpret as sexual indoctrination.

It means a queer doctor in a public hospital could be sued simply for being queer. A logo that looks too suspiciously “like a rainbow flag” could trigger lawsuits.

And it means anyone could file a lawsuit against a library for having queer materials in the children’s area, even if those materials are age-appropriate.

So many of us have seen this coming, and now that it’s here, if you haven’t been making calls and sending emails to your representatives, this needs to be the reason that you do. Every beat in the bill is laden with the language being used by groups like Moms For Liberty and their ilk, creating a moral panic about the sexualization of children that does not exist.

Whether or not such a law passes is moot right now. That it was drafted says everything you need to know. That it is being considered is a frightening reality of where we are as a society right now. We are not progressive nor open minded, and we never have been.

Now, it’s simply being legislated.

Below is the list of every individual who cosigned the bill, which will help you in the midterm elections.

Absolutely none of this should be surprising if you’ve been paying attention. It was coming.

Remember: it was never, it is never, and it will never be about the books.

It’s about the systematic erasure of people who do not fit the white, cishet, able bodied Christian nationalist mold.

Book Censorship News: October 21, 2022

  • Moms For Liberty met with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (NC) to propose their homegrown book ratings system as a way to solve book challenges. The same book ratings system they claim over and over they didn’t create but that they did create. This story was buried under a paywall by the newspaper, which is disturbing — why? I’ve got it saved here for full access. You should know what this group and others like it are doing without having to jump through hoops. The right to knowledge and information is at stake.
  • You’ve heard the cat boxes myth spread around by right-wing folks, including dozens of GOP candidates. Here’s the real story behind it, and it is incredible how a need that arose because of gun violence perpetrated by the right can now be twisted to fit their next agenda item.
  • Texas High School students in Texarkana, Texas, uncovered dozens of books pulled from the school library. Their story is a must-read. These student journalists are doing better work than most professionals.
  • Parents and “parents” in Spring Lake, Michigan, are fighting to get Gender Queer removed from the school district’s shelves. They refused to follow meeting protocol and the meeting ended early.
  • The book above was then banned from the library.
  • But they came to a compromise! “If students want to read the graphic novel Gender Queer: A Memoir, they’ll have to meet with a school counselor who will then call their parents for permission.” Call. Their. Parents. For. Permission.
  • “An Owasso [OK] parent says he was banned from school grounds for trying to keep pornography out of the school library.” There’s not a mention of the book but my guess is it’s either Let’s Talk About It or Gender Queer and the news here could do a better job of explaining that this sort of behavior is absolutely inappropriate.
  • A voluntary community read put together by the Bedford Teachers Association (NY) made people mad because one of the books on the list was The Poet X.
  • “Libraries receiving state funds in Missouri would be required to determine what material is ‘age-appropriate’ and restrict minors from accessing some books under a proposed rule submitted by the secretary of state Monday.” More bigotry masquerading as “parental rights” in Missouri. And below, please note the language:
  • Poway Unified School District (CA) has pulled two books for review in the school library. Only one book is named — Gender Queer — and one parent claims there are 100 more that need to be reviewed. Removing the books while reviewing them is still censorship.
  • “Cindy Rose, a candidate on the Education Not Indoctrination slate, shared a list of 35 books before beginning her public comment at the Frederick County Board of Education’s meeting Wednesday.” This is in Maryland. This…is literally their platform.
  • Members of a church group have been showing up at the Bartholomew Public Library (IN) complaining about books they think are inappropriate. Complainers say books should be moved to more appropriate areas of the library (Gender Queer, for example, is in the adult section but somehow that’s not appropriate?). Of course, it’s not long before you find out “we want the books moved to more appropriate places” means “not in the library at all.” Hundreds of people showed up at the board meeting this week.
  • “Republican Gubernatorial nominee for Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, argued for books to be banned but said it was ‘not a book ban.’” I love how book bans aren’t book bans. Doublespeak at its finest.
  • Parents complained about inappropriate books — none of which are named — at the Fairport Public Schools (NY). The district isn’t going to take any action.
  • A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal The Heart will remain on shelves in Sumner County Schools (TN).
  • The following books are being reviewed after being challenged at Old Rochester Regional High School (MA): All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin, Flamer by Mike Curato, Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
  • The Lafayette Parish Library (LA) board president who advocates book banning was elected to serve for another year.
  • What Girls Are Made Of has been under fire at St. Joseph Public Schools (MI) and now there are 11 more books being challenged.
  • “Wingate said his draft policy on sexually explicit materials is just a first step and will be modeled through the comments of his fellow board members. He said the draft is stronger than the model state policy and there is no good reason to have sexually explicit materials in school. […] He said while parents have the right to determine what their children read, taxpayers shouldn’t be required to fund it and that he’s appalled that some find literary merit in a father discussing raping his 11-year-old daughter as he said is included in one of the books.” This is Madison County, Virginia.
  • 33 books have been challenged in Spotsylvania schools this year (VA). The lists and their content — absolutely no surprises on either — are here.
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue is being challenged in Gettysburg Public Schools (PA).
  • Three books challenged at Durham District Schools (Ontario, Canada) will remain on shelves.
  • Why is there a police officer at the Huntsville Public Library (TX) reviewing books? I do not have an answer, there are no articles about it, and yet, weird things have been happening at this library, wherein the city administration seems to think they run the public library.
  • Here’s the landscape on book bans in western New York.
  • In Kenosha County, Wisconsin, a county board supervisor has caused a stir over the book Homegoing because he doesn’t like how slavery is depicted. The book was selected for the public library’s Big Read event for the coming year.
  • This story out of Maple Valley, Michigan, showcases how the push to ban books is not really about the books at all and the mis- and disinformation is actively harming people.
  • “A draft of Fauquier County Public Schools’ [VA] new policy addressing students exposure to sexually explicit content in the classroom will be presented to the School Board on Nov. 14, according to the Deputy Superintendent Major Warner.” Make any of this make sense.
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