Books aren’t simply fictitious words on paper. They are someone’s story, someone’s passion, and something somebody resonates with. Censorship, i.e. in this case, the banning of certain books, not only has a detrimental effect on the author but also takes away the opportunity from potential readers to find a book that makes them feel less alone and gives them a feeling of inclusivity.
Recently Banned LGBTQ Romance Novels
Late Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, is a romance novel that talks about the dangers of being a lesbian and Chinese in America at a time when being anything other than heterosexual was a disease. This book has been banned in several schools due to its vivid descriptions of lesbian culture.
Melissa (previously known as Geroge), by Alex Gino, was one of the most banned books in 2022. It is the story of a trans girl in middle school and her journey of exploring her sexuality. It was banned because it explored themes of sexuality, that conflicted with religious beliefs, at a very young age.
We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson, is a novel that combines queer romance and science fiction. It was banned in several schools because it contained “sensitive material” that was deemed inappropriate for children.
Although these are just three of the many many books banned in 2022, they were banned for the same reason– there were people who thought portrayals of LGBTQIA+ culture is wrong.
These books are simply educative and help people learn about and come to terms with their sexuality.
What are some of the reasons behind the banning of LGBTQIA+ Books?
In 2022, almost half the books that were under review/banned were of LGBTQ+ themes. From political motivations to religious ideals to simple fear, there are several factors that have played a role in the banning of LGBTQ+ books over the years.
Religious beliefs are often intertwined with social and cultural norms. The LGBTQ+ society has been stigmatized by people who interpret religious texts as being against on-binary gender identities and same-sex relationships.
Political motivations such as promoting certain ideologies, controlling information, or even conforming to certain cultural norms to maintain their political standings is extremely common. In fact, politics contributes largely to the banning of LGBTQIA+ books across the world.
People fear that LGBTQIA+ books have the potential to influence or steer children into being confused about their sexuality. This is why, in several communities, LGBTQIA+ books have been banned in local libraries as well as on educational campuses. In fact, PEN America estimates that over 1600 books were banned in about 5000 schools, affecting nearly four million students. Of this, about 41% were related to LGBTQIA+ themes.
Why is it important to advocate against the censorship of these books?
As authors, people should be able to write freely about what they believe in, who they identify with or as, and what they love. The censorship of LGBTQIA+ books stifles creativity and curtails freedom of expression. Additionally, LGBTQIA+ romance novels raise awareness about the community. To people who identify with the community and read this genre, these books can make them feel a part of something. In the literary world, they are accepted in a way society might not accept them.
Even for readers who do not identify with them, these books are a great source of knowledge. They can aptly describe what a person is going through thereby fostering empathy, understanding, and acceptance.
For a community that already faces undue societal challenges and discrimination, the banning of books that represent them can only exacerbate their feelings of loneliness and isolation, adding to mental health struggles.
What do we do now?
Brooklyn Public Library has an array of resources for teens who have had books banned in their public libraries and other institutions. They also offer memberships to their online database of books. This is currently free for anyone from New York between the age of 12 and 21. They also provide information on how to report book bans and have support groups where one can discuss censorship, book bans, etc.
ManyBooks has a digital library of ebooks, including some titles that have been banned over the last couple of years. These books can be downloaded onto your devices at no cost!
The College of Mainland has a dedicated page for books that have been banned. For access to most titles you need to be a part of the college, however, some books that have been banned multiple times in several locations can be accessed via google books or other similar sites.
Advocating against censorship of LGBTQIA+ romance novels is a step toward social progress and equality. Curbing creative freedom, making people feel like they are not supposed to be the way they are, and restricting access to educative material are all side effects of censorship of LGBTQIA+ books. Literature, although just words on paper, have the ability to spark creativity and make people believe that what they feel is valid. It is a crime to take that away from readers and writers.