Happy pride month! On Thursday, the Biden administration announced some upcoming additions to their administration to help increase country-wide support for the LGBTQ+ community.
One of those additions includes establishing a coordinator to “lead the charge” against banning books in schools who will serve under the Department of Education. While it appears this role is still in the planning stages (and therefore vague) their overall role seems to be educating schools on the emotional, intellectual, and societal harm that book bans cause.
This, of course, comes after the rise in book bannings that the country has seen over the past few years. In fact, the amount of banned books in US schools has increased by 30% just over the last year. According to President Biden’s domestic policy advisor Neera Tanden who spoke on the issue on a call with reporters, The Biden administration’s approach to this role is to consider the fact that the growing number of book bannings “may violate federal civil laws if they create a hostile environment for students.”
Banning books is a social justice issue, especially when we consider that many of the books that have been banned include queer characters. Specifically, according to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, more than 25% of books that have been banned by US schools either include queer themes or characters. Per PEN, “within this category, 68 are books that include transgender characters, which is 8% of all books banned.” It is also important to note that 30% of banned books in this country include themes of race and/or racism.
The creation of this new role was the main story of Biden’s new plan, however, he also introduced other protections to the LGBTQ+ community including:
- “a community safety program from the Department of Homeland Security to work with LGBTQI+ community centers, clinics and small businesses like restaurants and bars to provide training for bomb threats, active shooters and cyber threats
- an advisory for mental health care providers from Health and Human Services to help provide evidence-based care for transgender youth
- regulations to protect LGBTQI+ kids in foster care and place them in safe and appropriate homes”
While change seems to come very slowly in this country, these new measures definitely show promise. A public declaration of how the federal government intends to protect the LGBTQ+ people in this country is critically important given the increase in violence against LGBTQ+ communities.