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Why the Banning of Queer Books is Doomed to Fail

Two people holding a book with "Love is love" and a rainbow design on the cover.
News & Analysis

It’s Pride Month, and while we’ve made incredible progress over the years, we’re still, unfortunately, fighting some of the same old battles. Far Right authoritarians are still out there acting like any information about queer people is “indoctrination” or, now, “grooming.” So, they’re attempting to ban queer books in schools and libraries and now, occasionally going after publishers

Many of these attacks are coordinated plans—by a surprisingly small group of people—to control what information young people have access to, and it’s not new. Ironically, these attacks work in our favor because attempts to ban books on LGBTQ issues are doomed to fail. The tactics are hateful, divisive, and cliche at this point, and the amount of good people pushing back against censorship is growing against the small amount of people clamoring to ban books. Let’s look at those factors in more depth to see why there’s hope for a future free of book bans. 

Their Tactics Are Old

Attempting to erase queer people is nothing new. Some of the biggest names in authoritarianism have tried. Many of the classic images of Nazis swarming around a pile of smoldering books depict the burning of materials on queer and trans identities. That’s the company the Far Right today is keeping when they attack marginalized groups. And they’ve even tried to ban books about the holocaust, so it seems like they know exactly what they’re doing. 

Book bans and the erasure of history, whether it’s LGBTQ history, WWII history, or the racist history of our own nation, are right out of the antiquated authoritarian playbook. Autocrats around the world have used censorship to try to silence dissent, stir up animosity toward marginalized groups, and hide their own evils. 

Authoritarians target a marginalized group (the LGBTQ community), attempt to convince their supporters that the marginalized group deserves to be targeted (labeling them as “groomers”), and attempt to scrub that marginalized group from full existence and participation in society (pulling books from schools and libraries). Hate. Rinse. Repeat. At least that predictability means plenty of people are prepared to fight back.

Many of Us Are Fighting Back

Standing up to censorship is everyone’s responsibility, and there are lots of us out here fighting the good fight. From nonprofit organizations like People For, to trade organizations like the American Library Association (ALA), to publishers like Penguin Random House, to parents, and students, the coalition against book banning is broad. A survey by the ALA found that the majority of people across all political ideologies “oppose efforts to have books removed from their local public libraries.”

Even when authoritarianism was at its worst, good people fought back, and they did it together. When we stand up, even Moms for Liberty, one of the leading book banning groups which claims more than 100,000 members, can’t stop us. Book defenders have scored victories in Texas and Florida so far this year. We have a long way to go, both in terms of fighting book bans and working toward broader equality, but we’ll get there together. 

Truth is Stronger Than Authoritarianism 

Marginalized people use stories to share our identities and relate to one another when we feel isolated from society. That will never change because no matter how much the Far Right argues otherwise, these stories speak important truths. 

Queer kids are born every day. Their identities are valid. They deserve to grow up seeing themselves represented. And that representation, as part of a diverse and comprehensive education system, creates a kinder, more equitable society for everyone. That’s the truth. That’s what the Far Right is trying to deny our young people.

At People For, we’re fighting for truth by opposing book bans and censorship. We encourage others to join us. Read the books the Far Right doesn’t want you to read. Share them with your friends and family. Make your voice heard at your local school board meetings. Donate. Pride month is the perfect time to get loud and let the authoritarians of the Far Right know censorship will never silence the truth.