Censorship Sucks, a Person’s Existence Isn’t Inherently Sexual, and Sexuality Isn’t ‘Bad’

There are volumes to be written on this subject, and maybe before I stop blogging, I’ll write about all of them. About how people with compatible sexualities can be ‘just friends’ without involving sex or romance in the relationship. About how not every form of physical intimacy between or among people leads to or is intended to lead to sex. About how a woman’s naked body isn’t a sexual object. About how a woman dresses in hot weather or just for her own aesthetic pleasure doesn’t invite or entitle sexual innuendo or other people’s hands on her body. But today, I’m going to write about a specific thing that irks me.

I read an article about banned books and censorship, and 80% of the most censored books in schools and libraries were because they ‘contained LGBT+ characters.’
SOOOOOO much about that article bothered me that I waited a day before I even tried to write anything about it. This is a reader rant, a writer rant (a romance writer in particular rant), a mom rant, and a friend rant all rolled up in one.
First, censorship sucks. Censorship to specifically avoid inclusion sucks more. There are LGBT+ people out in the world and denying access to books with LGBT+ characters is ridiculous. Is the thought process that erasing their presence in fictional literature for the young will eventually erase their presence in reality? I didn’t read any books in my youth that featured unambiguously non-heterosexual or non-cisgender characters, and I’m certain my parents or grandparents didn’t read any in their youth either. But I know LGBT+ people. So yeah…that’s never worked and it’s still not gonna work.

Kids should read about LGBT+ characters; maybe they’ll be empathetic and understanding of LGBT+ people in reality. Maybe kids that lean out of ‘cisgender’ or ‘heterosexual’ labels can read these characters and see themselves and find some confidence and self acceptance and esteem. I remember reading books that featured characters I saw myself in and feeling less weird and less wrong and less confused and less alone. What’s wrong with that? Don’t LGBT+ kids DESERVE those feelings too?
I think they do.

Second, if the premise is (which it’s not, but proponents of book banning always try to rationalize things in ‘benign’ ways) that cishet folks won’t relate to ‘LGBT+ literature,’ and the assumption is that most people are cishet (which might be a bad assumption in itself), then let me just say WRONG. I’m textbook cishet. The traditional gender roles at my house are so pronounced, some people think it precludes me from open-minded free thinking. It doesn’t get more cishet than me. But my favorite, favorite, ***favorite*** author is a gay man. He most notably writes memoirs, which are the most personal works an author can pen. I relate to him on nearly a ‘I must be your sister from another mister’ level. His last work was a love story about his relationship with his husband, and it reminded me so much of my own relationship with J, I cried. Hard. Sobbed. So ‘straight people won’t relate anyway’ as an excuse for zero visibility and representation is garbage. (This author is Augusten Burroughs, by the way. All of his books are amazing and funny and moving, but the one I’m referring to here is Lust and Wonder. It. Is. Awesome.)

Last, and in my opinion, most importantly, the impetus behind censoring books meant for pre-adulthood reading that contain LGBT+ characters is because LGBT+ characters are deemed automatically sexual. That’s crap. Kids aren’t sexual beings, especially little kids who read picture books, and children’s book authors are not writing in ‘adult themes.’ Reading about a boy with a crush on another boy or a girl with a crush on another girl doesn’t make the story sexual and inappropriate, any more than reading about Peter Hatcher in Judy Blume’s classic, SuperFudge, having a crush on JoAnne McFadden made that story sexual and inappropriate. Harry liking Cho Chang or Ginny Weasley, or the Ron/Hermione relationship, doesn’t make JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series inappropriate. If you think it’s ‘cute’ and ‘sweet’ and ‘awwwwwww’-worthy for a girl to have a crush on a boy, or a boy to have a crush on a girl, it’s the same kind of cute for a girl to have a crush on a girl or a boy to have a crush on a boy. Elementary school and most middle school crushes are overwhelmingly innocent, regardless of the genders of the parties involved. Frankly, I get upset that people assign romance to my son when he talks about his girl friends. We DO put romance on kids too early, in my opinion. But I’m not going to tell my boy he can’t read SuperFudge (we’ve already read it), or Harry Potter (we’re on book 5 so far) because they contain juvenile ‘romance.’ If he reads a book with a same-sex ‘romance’ in it? GOOD. He’ll be exposed to LGBT+ people and same-sex romance in a way all kids have always been and continue to be exposed to cishet people and hetero romance in children’s literature and films (think of EVERY princess movie here)…gradually and age appropriately, like there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with it, because nothing IS wrong with it.
I **want** that exposure for my kid. I wish I’d had it for myself, pre-college.
There’s not an age that kids are ‘too young’ to know LGBT+ people exist, and are kind, intelligent people who have the same romantic feelings and fall in love that cishet people do. Censoring books for having inclusive character casts is wrong and sad.

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