(NEXSTAR) — A controversial conservative Catholic organization is urging parents to “Hide the Pride” during Pride Month — by checking out any LBGTQ-related books they see at their local libraries so that no children will see them.
The group CatholicVote says “recent polls” show “American moms and dads do not want their children exposed to sexual and ‘trans’ content as part of their education.” The group says parents can inconspicuously check out materials and place them away from children at home.
The campaign comes after a sharp rise in book challenges and bans over the past year: Literary and free-expression advocacy group PEN America‘s Index of School Book Bans has recorded 1,586 instances of individual book bans between July 1, 2021 and March 31.
As Washington Post explains, there’s a difference between “challenges” and “bans”: Bans are complete restriction of materials from libraries, but challenges are merely attempts to restrict access. While many libraries have had to review their materials and/or remove them, nationally, many public libraries stand firmly on keeping contested materials available to the public.
In Texas, the Austin Public Library says many of its branches feature Pride displays. Additionally, APL is hosting a series of summer events called “Banned Camp,” a representative told Nexstar. These events are intended to spark conversations about book-banning overall.
“Freedom to read is a right that must be protected in our schools and public libraries, and we must not give in to the vocal few that want to speak for the many,” Austin Public Library Director Roosevelt Weeks said in previous statement about limiting access.
The library’s “Banned Camp” begins with one particularly notable LGBTQ title, George M. Johnson’s “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” The book of essays explores Johnson’s experiences growing up as Black and queer, according to publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. While the book has been widely celebrated, it has also been a major target for crusades against LGBTQ youth books. Earlier this year, the American Library Association listed the memoir as one of the 10 most challenged books of 2021.
In an April Global Citizen article, Johnson, who uses they/them pronouns, explained they wrote the book so Black and queer youth could see themselves and their own experiences in the material, which contains stories based on Johnson’s experiences as an adolescent.
It’s a feeling shared by author Adam Sass, whose 2020 young-adult novel “Surrender Your Sons” focused on a group of queer youths shipped off to an island-based conversion camp.
“Restricting access to LGBTQ-centered books hurts kids,” Sass says. “It hurts queer kids because it robs them of the various mirrors they need to figure out who they are, give voice and form to their feelings, and feel less alone. It also hurts straight kids because it robs them of insight they might get into their queer siblings or friends.”
Sass continued, saying the aim of these campaigns is to erase queer youth.
“They want kids afraid, and they want them in hiding — not because Jesus said it. They do it because they like it.”
In addition to checking out materials, CatholicVote also suggests parents write letters complaining about Pride Month displays and materials, LGBTQ outlet Into explains. Writer Johnny Levanier notes the campaign could backfire for the group, since libraries may believe the mass checkouts means increased need for more LGBTQ books.
Pride Month books
Denver Public Library’s Pride Month 2022 book guide includes recommendations for LGBTQ titles broken down by age group.
Children: “Adventures with My Daddies,” by Gareth Peter; “Being You: A First Conversation about Gender,” by Megan Madison; “A Church for All,” by Gayle Pitman; and “Heather Has Two Mommies,” by Lesléa Newman.
Teen: “The Black Flamingo,” by Dean Atta; “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe; “The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School,” by Sonora Reyes; “The Chandler Legacies,” by Abdi Nazemian; “Date Me, Bryson Keller,” by Kevin Van Whye; and “Two Boys Kissing,” by David Levithan.