Bigots tried to have LGBTQ+ children’s books labelled ‘criminal’. One library is fighting back

A young person reads a book in a school library like setting

In a win for LGBTQ+ rights, St Tammany Library Control Board has voted to keep four inclusive titles on its shelves, despite pressure from conservative parents pushing for book bans.

Four books with LGBTQ+ themes will be returned to public library shelves in St Tammany Parish following the local library board of control’s decision on Monday (27 March) that the books are beneficial to the public.

The LGBTQ-inclusive books up for discussion included I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, My Rainbow by DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal and When Aiden Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff.

During the meeting, the board heard public comments for and against the books, which had been previously challenged in December, after which the board voted to keep them on public shelves. 

The books were under review yet again following the submission of new complaints, called “statements of concern”.

All but one complaint was submitted by resident of Mandeville, Connie Phillips, on behalf of St Tammany Library Accountability Project – a conservative group responsible for challenging materials in the parish’s library system. 

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The statements for concern stated that the books should to be moved to a section behind the circulation desk because they do not “represent the majority views of St Tammany Parish taxpayers”.

According to Louisiana Illuminator, the statement also claimed that the books violated a 2017 criminal statute that prohibits the “sale, exhibition or distribution of material harmful to minors”.

St Tammany Parish Library told PinkNews: “As for the decision on the books, during the discussion before voting, it was noted that the books did not meet the requirements of the criminal statute in the statements of concern and therefore were to remain on the shelf.”

Public stand behind LGBTQ-inclusive books

In defence of I am Jazz, a story based on the real-life experiences of co-author and trans YouTuber Jazz Jennings, Andrea Romero, president of the Gulf South LGBT Chamber of Commerce, said: “I have two children, two girls ages nine and 12 … and bombshell: I am transgender.

“I’m here to talk about this book, I am Jazz. This is my copy right here. This is the book I used to teach my daughters about me and my role in this world and my coming out.

“I strongly suggest keeping this book accessible to all the children and adults who decide they simply need to read it.”

My Rainbow, which includes a trans character and discussions of race and mental illness, was also targeted in Phillip’s statement of concern, in which she said it contained “mature subject matter”, while arguing that there should be “no effort” to “confuse children about their sexuality”. 

The author of the book, DeShanna Neal, who was recently elected as Delaware’s first non-binary state representative, said they wrote the book in the “spirit of understanding”, adding that the book is “for all children”.

The win for inclusive education follows several libraries in the US being targeted with complaints for stocking diverse reading material.

According to a report released last year, almost half of books banned in US schools in the past year contained LGBTQ+ themes or characters. 

Maia Kobabe’s memoir Gender Queer, about growing up as non-binary and asexual, was the most-banned book, targeted by 41 school districts between July 2021 and June 2022.

PinkNews has contacted the authors of the books.