Across the country, an ongoing education controversy has erupted around homosexuality.
Republicans in Florida and other states have moved to eliminate all mention of gay people in public schools. Drag queen stories have been embraced by libraries but opposed by conservatives, with some deploying vicious slogans like “kill your local pedophile”.
It’s horrifying but not surprising in a country where more than a third of adults now say they support banning books with stories about transgender youth. That’s exactly what school districts across the country are doing, with right-wing activists even closing libraries to do the same.
If you feel like you’ve been seen before, you’re not alone. Conservatives and fascists have baselessly accused homosexuals of pedophilia, obscenity and pornography for over a century. But what is everyone afraid of?
One possibility is that they fear their children will choose to live as a trans person. According to the thinking, if gay people and stories are censored, children will not grow up gay. It is a predictable logic, but also ineffective and cruel.
I know because that’s the kind of system I grew up in.
I grew up on military bases in a Southern Baptist family. I didn’t know any trans people. Adults around me would refer to trans people with words like “shim” or say “he’s not male or female, he’s a that”. Mainstream movies and shows like Ace Ventura, Little Nicky, Reno 911 and a million others taught me that “men in women’s clothes” were objects of contempt and disgust.
I tried looking for information about trans people, but couldn’t find anything in my school library or other community libraries — and the online tools at those institutions filtered out queer content. I told the therapists I felt uncomfortable with my gender, but they said it was a temporary phase because my dad was deployed overseas.
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My natal puberty progressed, giving me facial hair, a height of six and a half feet, and a deep voice. I hated every inch of my huge hairy body. When my desperation drove me to self-harm, another therapist insisted it was a phase.
I still remember the first time I read an article about a trans person not being made fun of in Time magazine’s famous “Transgender Tipping Point” issue in 2014. I was 22 years old. I started my transition almost exactly 8 months later.
It’s a tough life. The size of my body and the height of my voice take me away from the “passability” of trans celebrities with endless money. Nothing can shrink my height, voice surgeries are ridiculously expensive, and my (very good) health insurance doesn’t cover facial hair removal.
Since I cannot hide my transsexuality, I am constantly exposed to transphobia whenever I am in public or applying for a job. And I still deal with constant dysphoria.
My body and my pain are a consequence of censorship. It shouldn’t be like this.
Had I had access to books like Imogen Binnie’s Nevada, T Cooper’s Real Man Adventures, or Jazz Jenning’s Being Jazz, I might have known enough to demand treatment sooner, or at least understand better. my needs. My life would be safer and less painful in so many ways today.
Your own child, or that of your neighbour, could be in the same situation as me. They deserve a chance to learn more about trans people so they can save themselves from a life of consequences. They deserve your help to make sure no one takes away their opportunity to learn that they might be trans.
So speak up for public access to queer literature in your community at library boards, school boards, and town halls. Don’t let the book engravers erase queer history right from under our noses, again.
This article originally appeared on Common Dreams.