You Don't Own Us
Fighting LGBTQ+ Censorship and Raising Your Voice
The phrase “we’re here” became my battle cry at the beginning of 2022. I was in the midst of writing what would become my debut young adult novel Last Boyfriends (releasing Summer 2024) when Florida’s HB 1557, the cruel “Don’t Say Gay” bill, began targeting the queer community. Rage tore through me while I watched in horror as events unfolded. I felt helpless, unsure where to direct my anger. So, I did the only thing I could control—I turned to the blinking cursor on my manuscript document.
We’re here, I thought as I began rewriting and reworking my plot. We’re here, I reminded myself as I wrote about three queer teens in Alabama fighting to exist. We’re here, I urged these characters as they began to fight with me to take down a school district’s anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives. When I was finished, Last Boyfriends was the result (you can now add it to your “to be read” list on Goodreads and be reminded when it releases).
One component of my fight back highlights book bans. In the grand scheme of the atrocities our community faces, a banned book might seem trivial in comparison. But that’s a wrong assumption—it’s a foundation for hate. For instance, the 2021-2022 school year witnessed 2,532 instances of individual books being banned (1,648 unique book titles), affecting 138 school districts in 32 states.Censorship is a tactic to keep diverse representation out of school systems. They’re banning these stories to silence us and erase our existence—keep us from realizing we’re here and have our own identity. We cannot let them isolate us by doing so, and if their tactics succeed…the focus for the queer community will be only on survival.
We have to fight back and remind them we’re here.
You might ask yourself how you can fight back. The best place to start is by reporting a banned book to the American Library Association (ALA). You might not think it helps to report a local book challenged in your town, but as many as 82-97% of challenged books are not reported.By reporting challenged books you notice in your local area, it helps the ALA prepare to address it and raise public awareness.
It’s important to use your voice and speak out. You can do this by turning to social media as well as speaking up at your local school/library board and city council meetings. Know that you are entitled to attend as well as the information of when and where they meet, their agenda, past meeting topics, etc. If you’re researching and find this information isn’t available, you can put in a Freedom of Information request to get it. Most importantly, don’t give up. That’s what they want you to do. Show up to these meetings and voice your concerns.
Fighting back means staying alert. Those attempting to censor the queer community are attempting to erase our existence. Let your anger fuel you to show up, be loud, and remind them we’re here by…
Finding and creating both local and national petitions at Change.org
Submitting book requests at your public libraries, which will provide receipts that your community needs the book and helps build the case that it is necessary
Locating and emailing your state representative about banned books by clicking here
Voting in your local elections—local government is what affects your day-to-day life, and your vote is just as important as it is in national elections
Take a moment to look at those leaderswho are spearheading fights against the queer community and challenging books…they were put there by votes, and they can be taken away with votes
Challenge their position for reelection by speaking out, campaigning for other candidates, running for the position yourself if possible, helping others register to vote, and using your ballot to oust them (preferably with glee)
Utilize the website VOTE411 to look up local voting and election information
Finding more advocacy information on ALA’s dedicated webpage here
I know fighting back can be daunting, but this newsletter will be here to help you along the way. Remember: like the ladies of The First Wives Club sang at the end of the movie, they cannot tell you what to say or what to do—they don’t own you.
What Makes Me Feel Here This Month:
It Gets Better Project is teaming up with publishers to make a difference. With a donation here, they will send a selection of (5) queer books to an LGBT Center, a Genders and Sexualities Alliances (GSA), or a similar LGBTQ+ affinity club at a school near you. By donating, you’re helping fight back against efforts to censor LGBTQ+ inclusive literature in Florida, Texas, and 30 additional states.
The YA book Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues by H.S. Valley is receiving a US release on February 14th. Originally published in New Zealand and Australia (I was so intrigued I had to special order a copy), this story is exactly what you need if you want queer love at a magical boarding school with the best trope (oh my god, they were roommates), spells gone awry, delightful adventures, and a diverse cast without hate (you know to whom I’m referring).
I recently discovered Pom Pom Squad’s cover of “Crimson + Clover”, a song originally released in 1968 by Tommy James and The Shondells (one of my favorites, but I cannot tell you why). Mia Berrin, who uses the band’s stage name, makes this cover sapphic and full of yearning (I have a new favorite…and I know why).
The new Here & Queer Podcast is a delightful (sometimes bittersweet) examination of queer culture with honest conversations between the co-hosts Caleb and Chad along with special guests ranging from queer authors, entertainment figures, and more.
About Matthew Hubbard:
I’m an author represented by Katie Shea Boutillier with Donald Maass Literary Agency. My debut novel Last Boyfriends will publish Summer 2024 from Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House (you can add it now on Goodreads here). It’s a coming-of-age novel pitched as Heartstopper meets The First Wives Club in which three queer teenage boys in small-town Alabama set out to get revenge on their ex-boyfriends and end up fighting their school's anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives.
I started the WE’RE HERE newsletter as a guide for queer and ally individuals highlighting book news, inspirational interviews, and awareness that we’re here to make difference.
Stay tuned for more details!
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PEN America report Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools
leader is a term used loosely
Great & helpful post! Joan Jett’s cover of Crimson and Clover has looooong been a favorite of mine. Glad I have another sapphic cover of this song to obsess over now!!