This past month, a school board in Delaware decided to ban the book, ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post,’ from it’s Blue Hen reading list for it’s ‘deplorable’ use of the f-word.However, out of all the books on the list including John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ which also uses the f-word and Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Eleanor and Park’ which also uses many a f-word, ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ is the only one to be banned, and not so coincidentally, also the only book whose protagonist is a lesbian.
The banning of books is nothing new. However, this is the era where laws and actions promote oppression through the rhetoric that it’s protecting the public when in actuality it’s sinisterly keeping those that are disfranchised even more disfranchised. So, a book that deals with homosexuality can be banned under the guise that it contains too crude language to expose to high school students, and when called out, those in charge can say it’s not homophobic to ban the book since the homosexual nature of it was ‘never discussed.’ That of course they can’t be homophobic since one of their favorite books is gay! (My guess is The Great Gatsby) This sort of rhetoric, this sort of internalized homophobia is hard to argue with people who deeply believe this sort of thing because they can linguistically create and manipulate mazes of rhetoric that have no inkling of sane logic.
Obviously, these school board members have frankly never walked the halls of any high school or have never been exposed to the same crude language laced media students are constantly expose to today or perhaps they have yet to met an actual high school student. Who knows? These kids have heard and said worst than the f-word, and it wasn’t from exposure to a lesbian novel I can assure you. While these school board members are supposedly protecting the minds of the youth from such obscene language, in the long run, they’re doing more harm than they could ever do good.
You would think that with nineteen states allowing same-sex marriage and over half of the population in favor of it that it’s becoming out of style to be homophobic, but terrifyingly, homophobia is taking on a different guise that’s hidden in supposed tolerance and distorted by practicality. We don’t burn books because of their homosexual content; we ban them for their crude language.What’s even more troublesome is that even with the success of the Trevor Project in which the nation gained exposure to the horrors and trauma that LGBT youth experience while existing as LGBT, the school board can still find it in themselves to take away this precious boon of gayness in a sea of heterosexual literature to a student who’s dealing with these new and scary feelings in a society that tells them those new, exhilarating feelings are a sin.
Stories matter. Representation matters. It’s difficult to understand this when the media is crafted to tell the stories of certain relationships, of certain races, of certain classes, and of certain genders in order to appease the upper class, white heterosexual males in power that want to see themselves reflected in media. However, when there are amazing portrayals of minorities in the media it does wonders for those it reflects. When Nichelle Nichols portrayed Uhura in the Star Trek series not only did she inspire Whoopi Goldberg to go into acting (who then in turned inspired Lupita Nyong’o to pursue acting as well), but she also inspired Mae Jemison, the first African American astronaut, to go into the sciences and the exploration of space, who then in turn is inspiring thousands of young girls to pursue the sciences. When you see someone that looks like you doing the impossible, you start to believe that you can do the impossible too.
And for most of the LGBT community that meant seeing someone like you not only living a happy life with someone of the same gender but also having your sexuality be normalized and not considered taboo. When the recently deceased Nancy Garden wrote ‘Annie on My Mind’ in 1982, it was revolutionary. With the famed introduction of “It’s raining, Annie” to the loving, beautiful portrayal of Annie and Liza’s relationship, sometimes hard, sometimes wonderful, always young, it was the first time that lesbian teens were shown in a positive light in any sort of media. For every closeted youth, for every closeted adult, for those who ached to see themselves reflected in a positive manner, for those who wept for their younger selves who needed that sort of validation and never received it, for my fourteen year old self who agonized over my feelings for a girl with pretty green eyes, to my twenty-one year old self who wants to see my parents at my wedding, ‘Annie on My Mind’ and books like it were a godsend in the most desperate fashion. It’s not a stretch to say that not only did it give LGBT people hope, but it also helped save people’s lives.
Now, this hoity-toity school board wants to deny the same students they’re serving, they’re protecting that sort of validation, that subtle and necessary acceptance to push whatever homophobic agenda they want? To tell them that diversity matters as long as you don’t want to fraternize with people of the same gender in a sexual manner? There’s more harm in denying these students that sort of validation than them reading a few f-words here and there. What possible logic can they give?
The scary thing, the most hurtful thing about all of this is that the school board members aren’t evil. It’s easy to peg them as bigoted monsters, but most school board members genuinely want to help and protect children. But the fact they want to save children from the queers, from the lavender menace, from the oh so scary gay agenda, is disheartening because it means that we’re still seen as monsters in the nooks and crannies of society despite all the progress we’ve made. These school board members passed judgment on ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ without ever reading it, and it seems that they could have benefited themselves by reading a narrative different from what they’ve ever experienced. Had they, then, maybe then, could this scary thing called homosexuality not be seen as so scary, and instead, be viewed as a normal part of life and treated as such. Then maybe we, the LGBT community, wouldn’t be scared to live in a world with people who’ve been taught to fear us as well.
Scout Finch once said “There’s only one type of folks. Folks.” And folks, for the most part, aren’t monsters.