Purging school libraries of queer content is harmful

Image by: Katharine Sung

Censorship is rarely a good thing, especially not when it’s furthering a political agenda. 

Conservative parents in the U.S. are campaigning to ban books with queer content from school libraries. Their concerns are rooted in the passé and extremely homophobic notion that queer people are pedophiles who want to ‘convert’ children.

Obviously, nothing—least of all a school library book—can change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Books can, however, help young people come to terms with their identity and reduce feelings of shame and isolation.

As we observe right-wing extremist politics from across the border, it’s critical for Canadians to remember our country is not without prejudice. This past summer, drag artists put on reading shows for children in public libraries across the country. The program sparked protest and threats of violence that led to some events being cancelled.

Though we may be reluctant to admit it, Canada suffers from deep-seated homophobia just like our neighbours to the south.

Perpetuating the myth that queerness is unnatural by banning books about queer people and their experiences is harmful to kids questioning their gender identity or sexuality. This book banning frenzy is not about protecting children, it’s about erasing queerness.

While it’s good to take an interest in your kids’ education, it’s wrong to limit their access to information because it doesn’t fit your politics. The modern obsession with sheltering kids has led to parents feeling entitled to control every minute aspect of their lives.

Americans who rush to defend their first amendment rights at any opportunity are the same people who support banning books containing queer content. Conservatives know book bans contradict their free speech principle, but seem willing to overlook this blatant hypocrisy to perpetuate anti-LGBTQ+ hate.

The internet poses a greater risk to kids’ innocence than practically any book out there, especially heavily vetted texts in school libraries. Bigotry that’s taught can be unlearned through exposure to different perspectives—and that scares conservative parents.

Young people today need more access to diverse perspectives; there’s no substitute for diverse representation. But controlling the educational materials kids have access to makes indoctrinating them easier.

Parents should see their kids as people, not things to control. Kids who want to learn about queer people and queer issues won’t let book bans stop them.

However, without accessible education materials in schools—including books about sexuality and gender—kids will inevitably turn to the internet where they may find adult-oriented or inaccurate information that could end up harming them. It’s a lot easier to find inappropriate content online than in a published book.

School libraires are among the safest resources available to children, and their financial and physical accessibility is something we can’t afford to lose. A lot of kids don’t have any other access to the information school libraries offer, particularly those living in poverty.

At some point, children need the chance to figure things out for themselves and read what they want—that’s how they learn. No one should be deprived of access to educational materials because they don’t align with someone else’s beliefs.

The idea that censoring queerness can ‘prevent’ it shows how misunderstood queer identities still are today. We need education that acknowledges queerness, not erases it.

Parents and teachers have a responsibility to prepare kids for adulthood. That means educating them on how to interact with information and alternative perspectives, regardless of whether they agree with them. Critical thinking skills can’t be developed in a vacuum.

School should be a haven for learning—political and religious beliefs should not be allowed to interfere.

 —Journal Editorial Board


book ban, children, Education, homophobia, LGBTQ+, Libraries, School

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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