Five of the 10 most challenged and banned books in the U.S. last year were flagged because of their LGBTQ content, according to the American Library Association.
The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to nearly 1,600 books — most of them by or about Black or LGBTQ people — in America’s public schools and libraries in 2021, its annual State of America’s Libraries report revealed. The number of challenges, more than double those in 2020, were the most the ALA has seen since it began compiling such information more than two decades ago.
“A year ago, we might have been receiving one, maybe two reports a day about a book being challenged at a library,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Now, we’re getting three, four, five reports a day.”
Books are being challenged at a record pace in a national culture war that has also led to bans on Pride flags and state bills seeking to limit LGBTQ classroom instruction.
Here are the five LGBTQ books on the ALA’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021.
This 2019 illustrated memoir, which secured the top spot on the latest list of most challenged books, details Kobabe’s obstacles as a nonbinary person navigating a binary society. The ALA said the book has been banned, challenged and restricted because of its LGBTQ content and “because it was considered to have sexually explicit images.”
“It’s very hard to hear people say ‘this book is not appropriate to young people’ when it’s like I was a young person for whom this book would have been not only appropriate, but so, so necessary,” Kobabe said in December. “There are a lot of people who are questioning their gender, questioning their sexuality and having a real hard time finding honest accounts of somebody else on the same journey. There are people for whom this is vital and for whom this could maybe even be lifesaving.”
'All Boys Aren’t Blue'
George M. Johnson
This New York Times bestseller chronicles the author’s experience growing up as a Black queer boy. The 2020 young adult memoir has been banned and challenged because of its LGBTQ content and its profanity and “because it was considered to be sexually explicit,” the ALA said. Johnson, who is nonbinary, said in December that it’s difficult to cope with the backlash even as the book soars in popularity.
“It sucks. It is overwhelming. It’s heavy,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, I’m witnessing parents buy this book for their teens. I’m witnessing parents and teens reading the book together. I’m also witnessing students find their agency and find their voice because I’m using mine.”
This coming-of-age novel, narrated by a young gay man, highlights the challenges of navigating race and class. The ALA said it has been challenged and restricted because of claims that it includes "sexually explicit" and LGBTQ content.
Last year, Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia threatened to remove “Lawn Boy” because of complaints that it promoted pedophilia. The book has returned to school shelves in the county after a review of the content. Following its reinstatement, Evison told The Washington Post in a statement that he hopes the book "will continue to inspire and comfort young adult readers who have been marginalized economically, racially, or by virtue of their sexual identification, so that these young people might find their rightful place within the large culture."
'This Book Is Gay'
“This Book Is Gay” is a coming-out guide for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer teens. The book also explores stereotypes and ways to find support in the LGBTQ community. It has been banned, challenged, relocated and restricted for LGBTQ content and information about sexual education, the ALA report said.
This year, “This Book Is Gay” was one of three works targeted for removal in Texas after a school superintendent complained, an investigation by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune revealed.
“Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out” explores the experiences of six trans and nonbinary teenagers before, during and after their transitions. Using portraits, Kuklin illustrates the joys and difficulties facing transgender youth.
The book, which was published in 2014, has been banned and challenged for LGBTQ content and "because it was considered to be sexually explicit," the ALA report said.