GOP Ramps Up LGBTQ+ Book Banning Efforts

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday November 15, 2021
Originally published on November 15, 2021

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott   (Source:AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Republican officials in a number of states have ramped up efforts to ban books with LGBTQ+ themes from school libraries, along with books that discuss race, and books by women, NPR reported.

Those efforts have been particularly strenuous in Texas, where State Rep. Matt Krause, a "Texas lawmaker running for attorney general, identified a list of 850 books that he says should be questioned; many of those books are written by women, people of color and LGBTQ authors," NPR detailed.

Maia Kobabe's graphic novel memoir "Gender Queer: A Memoir" was targeted by Texas State Rep. Jeff Cason, the article said.

The state's governor, Greg Abbott, "sent a letter to the state's school board association saying public schools shouldn't have 'pornographic or obscene material,'" NPR added, though Abbott "did not provide any specific examples of content."

But GOP officials in other states have also increased attacks on books they say are objectionable. In a recent article, The New York Times noted several titles that were yanked from school libraries in various places around the country, including "All Boys Aren't Blue," by gay Black author George M. Johnson and Alison Bechdel's graphic novel "Fun Home," a memoir of her own youth as a lesbian and her relationship with her father, who was closeted.

"Gender Queer" was also singled out by Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, who called the memoir "pornographic," NPR noted.

The book-banning push is "part of a trend of conservative-led fights across the country over how schools can teach about issues of race, particularly systemic racism, as well as sex and gender, blurring the already-faint line between local and national politics," the Houston Chronicle said. (Story is behind a paywall.)

Though critical race theory is taught in colleges, and not in elementary, middle, or high schools, the term has been appropriated to indicate books in general that discuss issues of race in America, news reports said.

Books by writers of color have come under attack, with reports citing two Toni Morrison novels. "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved" (the latter won the Pulitzer Prize) have faced challenges. The campaign of Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia gubernatorial candidate who defeated incumbent Terry McAuliffe, pointed at "Beloved" as an example of what should not be in schools. Youngkin made education a central plank of his campaign, and his campaign used a decade-old video in which a conservative activist attacks "Beloved" in its advertising.

Two members of a Virginia school board in Spotsylvania County called for books to be not only banned, but burned, NPR noted, quoting representative Rabih Abuismail as saying, "I think we should throw those books in a fire." Fellow school board member Kirk Twigg "said he wants to 'see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff,'" NPR added.

However, though critical race theory is loudly decried by Republican officials, it is books with LGBTQ+ content that the GOP is more focused on eradicating, at least in Texas, the Houston Chronicle said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.