Queer lawmaker wants to stop schools banning LGBTQ+ books

Image: Senator Mike Simmons on Facebook

One Illinois senator is battling to safeguard gay literature as states like Florida restrict access to LGBTQ+ education in schools.

Senator Mike Simmons (D) of Illinois said this week that he will introduce SB 689, which would prevent school districts from using discriminatory campaigns to prohibit books. The outspoken LGBTQ lawmaker explained his bill’s intent in an op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times, writing that it would protect “books that explore race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual health and reproductive health, religion and faith background, biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs about rights and activism.”

During his lifetime, Simmons has never seen anything like the current onslaught on literature. It’s no longer about the book when discussing book bans. It’s a deliberate attempt to erase a group of people and their history from our culture. Six different states have introduced bills to outlaw books. A infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law has been passed in Florida that forbids “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in particular grades. To be clear, banning books isn’t only about preventing people from reading certain works or ‘protecting’ sensitive minds. It involves restricting people’s ability to acquire new skills and knowledge. It’s a culture war designed to keep us apart rather than unite us.

Novels like “Gender Queer” by Maia Kokabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George Johnson, and “Flamer” by Mike Curato, three of the 13 novels expected to be attacked by school districts in 2022, include LGBTQ+ protagonists. PEN America reports that among the 1,600 books most frequently challenged in the United States, 400 deal with LGBT topics.