Across the country, conservatives have been clutching their pearls at the thought of young people reading about LGBTQ identities.
Calls to ban books with LGBTQ content from school libraries have sharply risen over the past year, with many parents claiming these stories are a form of “pornography.”
School boards across the country have been embracing censorship, as have parents and GOP political figures.
Many of the books causing all of this vitriol are simply meant to help LGBTQ youth make sense of and love who they are in a world that (clearly) still won’t fully embrace them.
The following six books, which have been challenged again and again, were written to do just that.
And Tango Makes Three
This could be the most ridiculous member of the list, as And Tango Makes Three is a children’s picture book. Written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole, it tells the adorable story of two male penguins raising a baby penguin.
And Tango Makes Three was published in 2005 and has been the target of conservative anger ever since. It faces constant challenges, and this year has been no different.
In October 2021, Texas Rep. Matt Krause (R-TX) sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency that included a list of 850 books, including And Tango Makes Three, demanding schools share how many copies of each book they have and how much money they spent to obtain the books.
The award-winning Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, tells the story of Kobabe’s journey to accepting eir identity as non-binary and asexual and explains ideas around gender and sexual identity. While sex is discussed in the book that also has drawings, it is not pornography because it is not intended to cause sexual excitement.
In November, 2021, Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster called for the removal of the book from public school shelves, declaring it “obscene” and “pornographic.” He said it was brought to his attention when parents recently rallied against it in the Fort Mill School District.
Parents in other school districts around the country have also complained about Gender Queer.
All Boys Aren’t Blue
This memoir by George M. Johnson has been targeted in at least 15-states. The series of essays tells Johnson’s story of growing up Black and queer in New Jersey and Virginia. He writes about sexual relationships, bullying, racism, toxic masculinity, and other topics associated with identity and self-discovery.
“My book is a tool so that Black queer kids and LGBTQ teens can see themselves and read about themselves and learn about themselves within the book’s pages, something that they historically have not been able to do,” Johnson told Democracy Now.
Johnson acknowledged that the book talks about sex, sexuality, and consent, and said it does so “as a teaching tool for the youth, who are clearly growing up in a world where heavy topics are being presented to them not just in books but in real life, on television.”
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)
L.C. Rosen’s Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) is a book about a gay teenager and his sex life that has been under attack by parents across the country.
The YA book centers 17-year-old Jack, who writes a teen sex advice column.
Author Mackenzi Lee praised the book as “the sex-ed class you didn’t get in high school–positive, frank and inclusive.”
Rosen has spoken out about the outrage against the book.
“I think it’s troubling when they can’t distinguish between porn — which is not meant for education — and a book like mine that’s trying to educate teenagers and tell them, ‘It’s OK to have these desires; here’s how to act on them consensually and safely,’” Rosen said.
Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home has also been regularly challenged. The book explore’s Bechdel’s complicated relationship with her father as she also works to figure out her own identity as a lesbian.
In 2007, it was awarded the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book.
This year, Fun Home has been removed from library shelves in the St. Louis area school district of Wentzville. It was saved by protesting students after a New Jersey school considered a ban. Student protests also stopped it from being banned from shelves in a North Kansas City, Missouri school district.
The list goes on.
Adam Rapp’s 33 Snowfish is the story of homeless teens who endure sexual abuse, drug addiction, and sex work. The book also includes LGBTQ storylines.
In 2004, 33 Snowfish was named a top 10 book for young adults by the Young Adult Library Services Association. It is recommended for readers ages 15 and up.
33 Snowfish was called out by a Virginia parent who expressed her horror to the Spotsylvania County School Board when she discovered it in her child’s school library app.
Her complaints spurred the board to vote 6-0 to ask school staff to remove “sexually explicit” books from their libraries and then gather for a special meeting to report on what they have removed.