Tag: list

LGBTQ Children’s/YA Books Dominate Decade’s Banned Books List

LGBTQ Children's/YA Books Dominate Decade's Banned Books List

Once again, it’s Banned Books Week—and a new list of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books from the last decade reminds us that LGBTQ-inclusive books for kids remain among the most (needlessly) controversial.

ALA Top 100 Banned and Challenged Books

The American Library Association (ALA) has compiled its annual Top Ten Most Challenged Books lists into a list of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010-2019. Many are acclaimed novels, like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and even the Bible. As the Banned Books Week Coalition said in its press release, however, many of the books on the list were targeted for LGBTQIA+ content. They include:

Book Challenges 2019

Many more of the books on the list also include LGBTQ characters or ones of other marginalized identities. When the annual list for 2019 came out this past April, the ALA noted “a rising number of coordinated, organized challenges to books, programs, speakers, and other library resources that address LGBTQIA+ issues and themes. A notable feature of these challenges is an effort to frame any material with LGBTQIA+ themes or characters as inherently pornographic or unsuitable for minors, even when the materials are intended for children and families and they are age and developmentally appropriate.” Additionally, they observed:

Organized groups also continued to protest and disrupt Drag Queen Story Hour events held in libraries, claiming that the events advance political, social, and religious agendas that are inconsistent with the groups’ conservative Christian beliefs about gender and sexual identity. In 2019, OIF [the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom] tracked more than 30 challenges to Drag Queen Story Hours and other Pride programs, and identified a new and distressing trend of disinviting authors who had been invited to speak or read from their books, solely on the grounds that the authors identify as LGTBQIA+ or because their books include LGBTQIA+ themes. [Here’s my coverage of a school that disinvited author Phil Bildner from a virtual visit this May, and one that disinvited author Robin Stevenson from a talk last year.]

I don’t think I need to remind readers here of how damaging such censorship can be to LGBTQ children, children of LGBTQ parents, and also their peers, who will grow up never fully learning about the world around them. This is not to say that all books are appropriate for all children; some are clearly geared towards different age ranges. Yet even children of the same age have differing levels of maturity, so it is ultimately up to us parents or guardians to decide what books are appropriate for our own children. I will also add, speaking as the parent of a child who is almost grown, that inevitably our children will learn about some things in life before we think they should. It’s then up to us to help them understand and contextualize this information—and books are often more of a help here than a hinderance. Banning books from schools and libraries is rarely the answer and can even make a parent’s task harder.

The ALA also reminds us that the censorship of books in libraries is a violation of our First Amendment rights, yet 82 to 97 percent of challenges remain unreported. (To confidentially report a challenge, use this handy ALA online form.)

Despite the continuing challenges to LGBTQ books, however, I see several reasons for hope: Although Heather Has Two Mommies has been under fire since 1982, when it was used as an example of “the militant homosexual agenda” by an Oregon group campaigning to allow anti-gay discrimination, it came out in a new edition with revised text and graphics in 2015. And Tango Makes Three saw a 10th anniversary edition in 2015 that brought the tale to the board book format. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, which has seen challenges since 2008, came out in a new edition this past May. Clearly, the challenges haven’t slowed down the popularity of these books or the commitment of their publishers.

As I wrote in April, too, I believe that the increase in challenges to Drag Queen Story Hours and queer-inclusive children’s books is in part an indicator of their success as they spread to more libraries and communities. I’m also heartened by the many, many LGBTQ-inclusive books I’ve reviewed that haven’t been banned, although I do wonder whether this is because they’re not becoming known and getting into libraries in the first place. I’d like to think that even though queer-inclusive books will undoubtedly face more challenges, it will be harder for them all to be challenged as their numbers grow.  In 2018 and 2019 there was a rise in the number of queer-inclusive children’s books published, and 2020 is continuing the surge. Get them for your own family or recommend them to your local children’s librarian.

Want to hear more about banned books from an author who’s dealt with many challenges? Alex Gino’s George, an award-winning middle grade novel about a transgender girl, has been on the yearly Top 10 list for four years in a row, topping the list in 2018 and 2019. Gino will be joining the Banned Books Week Coalition and OIF for a special Facebook Live event on Wednesday, September 30, to talk about censorship and representation in literature. For even more (mostly virtual) events on various topics related to censorship, inclusion, and more, see the Banned Book Week Events listing. Read proudly this week and every other!


(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

The Books We Need: An LGBTQ Picture Book Wish List

The Books We Need: An LGBTQ Picture Book Wish List

The number of LGBTQ-inclusive picture books has grown exponentially over the past decade, particularly in the last few years. There are some topics and types of representation that are still lacking, however, so instead of reviewing existing books in this piece, I want to discuss some of those gaps.

Picture Books

First, we need more picture books that show LGBTQ characters and their families but aren’t “about” being LGBTQ per se. There is a slowly growing number of such titles, but far from enough. Sometimes a family with LGBTQ parents just goes to visit grandma; sometimes a transgender or nonbinary child has an intergalactic space adventure that has nothing to do with their gender identity.

At the same time, such books don’t always have to completely ignore the characters’ LGBTQ identities. Kyle Lukoff’s When Aiden Became a Brother and Max on the Farm are masterful examples of how to achieve this balance, bringing up the characters’ gender identities when relevant to a specific situation, but not focusing the stories on them.

We also need far more books centering the experiences of LGBTQ people of color and their families. Most LGBTQ-inclusive picture books of the past few years do indeed show people of color, but the vast majority of them involve making one parent a person of color (usually Black) and the other one White, or showing a classroom of children with various racial identities. It’s great to see this representation of multiracial families and schools—but we also need more books where the protagonist and their entire family are people of color. (There are a few, but not many.) Also sorely lacking are picture-book biographies of famous LGBTQ people of color that show their intersectional identities.

I would also like to see more LGBTQ-inclusive picture books that reflect the characters’ ethnic and/or religious heritage. There are none, to my knowledge, that show LGBTQ people or families celebrating Hanukkah, Easter, Kwanzaa, or Diwali, for example, and very few for other holidays. Such content would help show that LGBTQ people’s lives do indeed intersect with the many communities of which we are part and that LGBTQ identities, faith, and tradition are not mutually exclusive. Creating this content in authentic ways, however, also means engaging “own voices” creators who share identities with their subjects. Smaller independent publishers such as Flamingo Rampant, Reflection Press, and My Family Products are leading the way here; larger publishers would do well to follow their examples.

There are also no picture books that show clearly bisexual parents. I think there are ways for writers to make a parent’s bisexuality visible and still avoid centering the book on it as an “issue”—a parent could mention or encounter a person they dated in the past, of a different gender than their current spouse/partner, or a single parent could convey an interest in marrying someone of any gender, for example.

We also need more picture books that feature kids with transgender or nonbinary parents, in addition to the happily growing number with trans and gender creative kids. Gayle Pitman’s recent My Maddy stars a child speaking lovingly about her nonbinary parent, but there are many more stories to be told.

Despite the need for more “non-issue” books, too, children can still benefit from thoughtfully written titles that do address some of the specific situations that kids of LGBTQ parents and LGBTQ children may encounter—and there are many such topics that have not yet been covered extensively in picture books, such as a parent’s gender transition. The upcoming She’s My Dad! by Sarah Savage will help fill the gap here, but it shows only one possible story out of many. Another topic in need of more treatment is how queer families form, especially from the perspective of a child watching their LGBTQ parents go through the process of bringing a new sibling into the home, whether by assisted reproduction, fostering/adoption, or other means. A few, mostly self-published books exist, but given the variety of queer experiences, there is room for many more.

Children could also benefit from picture books about other potentially puzzling or difficult family moments, like when parents are divorcing, dating someone new, or remarrying, told through the lenses of LGBTQ families. There are a couple of self-published works that cover these topics (and the very first LGBTQ-inclusive picture book in English, Jane Severance’s 1979 When Megan Went Away, was about parental separation), but again, there are many possible situations and stories that have not yet been covered.

It’s worth noting, too, that many LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books have been self-published because the authors felt a need, often stemming from their own families. They deserve our praise for taking the time to write themselves into these stories. Yet self-published books can be a mixed lot, quality-wise, and often don’t get the marketing required to become known to the readers seeking them.

We should therefore support independent authors, not only by purchasing their books but also by finding ways to help them polish their works (e.g., constructive but kind feedback in online reviews) and to share them widely when we enjoy them. (Highlights Foundation last year held a workshop on writing LGBTQ-inclusive picture books, with instruction from published luminaries, which was another step in the right direction.)

At the same time, we should push larger publishers to seek out diverse talent (across many dimensions), to bring out additional LGBTQ-inclusive picture books on the topics above (and more), and to reach out to LGBTQ organizations, journalists, and other writers to help spread the word. Children of LGBTQ parents and LGBTQ children will benefit—and so will their peers. Everyone enjoys an intergalactic space adventure now and then.

(Originally published as my Mombian newspaper column.)


(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

Guys list their favorite gay saunas around the world (for when covid is over) / Queerty

Guys list their favorite gay saunas around the world (for

Someday (hopefully) soon, quarantine practices will be phased out, and we’ll be free to travel around the world.

On Reddit, users are listing their favorite saunas, prompted by a guy asking for steamy recommendations.

“Maybe you’re like me — deprived of human touch since the pandemic and reminiscing about your past ways,” the original poster wrote, kicking off the conversation. “While gay saunas are not for every guy, I miss going to safe places to meet men and just feel liberated.”

Related: In response to coronavirus, gay sauna refuses entry to people who are ‘too hot’

Here are the saunas commenters recommended, illustrated with Instagram pics geotagged at each location.

The Babylon, Bangkok, Thailand

Der Boiler, Berlin, Germany

Sauna Sitges, Barcelona, Spain

Sauna Paraíso, Madrid, Spain

Related: Guys reveal their best and worst bathhouse experiences

Sauna Hispalis, Seville, Spain

Sauna Condal, Barcelona

Steamworks, Chicago, USA

10 Bucket List Items in Anti-LGBT Destinations – DOPES ON THE ROAD

10 Bucket List Items in Anti-LGBT Destinations - DOPES ON

It’s illegal to be LGBT in 70+ countries. Some of these countries hold the most incredible wonders, brightest adventures, and most sought after travel experiences. We believe that all people, regardless of their identities, deserve to see the beauty and wonder of the world. We’ve written at length about why we choose to travel to anti-LGBT destinations, but I’ll briefly summarize our feelings by saying this if local people have first-hand experience with LGBT people they’re more likely to think favorably of our community. People cannot be expected to accept that which they have no positive experiences. That being said, not every traveler wants to be an activist and you shouldn’t have to be. Traveling with a group is always safer in high-risk countries because it allows you to blend with a crowd and gives you direct contact with bilingual people in case there are any complications. Which is why we put together this list of incredible experiences LGBT people can enjoy on the next holiday. 

 

Hike to the Treasury in Petra 

Jordan might be a lesser-known travel destination but it is emerging as a true powerhouse in recent years. At this point, everyone has seen the stunning photos taken on the hill from above the Treasury on Instagram. A night spent sipping tea at a desert camp with the Bedouin people followed by a hike to the Ancient City of Petra. You can imagine that would be the highlight of visiting Jordan.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site looks like it’s been ripped straight from the pages of an Aladdin fairytale book. With the camels, gorgeous carpets, and beautiful sandstone colored buildings. However, if you ask anyone who’s been there what their favorite part is and everyone will tell you the people. There’s really nothing more magical than that. 

Spot the Big 5 in the Serengeti

Have you thought about visiting Tanzania yet? We’ve all watched the magic of the Serengeti through the eyes of the National Geographic Channel for years. Everything from the lions hunting for prey to the vultures cleaning up the mess was documented for us. However, there is no substitute for being right in the middle of it all. With the rhino growing closer and closer to extinction the time is now to go see these majestic animals. Just in case you didn’t know the big five includes the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino all five can be found in the Serengeti. 

Haggle for goods at the Medina of Fez

The Medina in Fez is a swirling center of hectic chaos that has not changed for centuries. Your senses will but absolutely overloaded in all ways when you visit Morocco but the Fez is the peak of that beautiful chaos. When you think you simply can not take anymore you’ll pop up to a rooftop terrace to sip tea overlooking everything. Fez is bright, it is colorful and it’s loud but there is an energy there that is nearly unmatched. Once you’ve had your tea, navigate the narrow streets and negotiate a good price on something for the home. Don’t take it easy, these merchants are seasoned veterans and drive a hard bargain. Getting a good deal here is a notch in your traveler belt you can proudly claim forever. 

Visit the Splendor of the Taj Mahal

A visit to India undeniably belongs in a prominent place on all travel bucket lists. While the whole country is spotted with beautifully unique cities any trip would be incomplete without making a stop at the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is a physical gift symbolizing an emperor’s deep love and appreciation for his wife. The Taj Mahal complex is very large with massive gardens and outbuildings but the mausoleum is the highlight. It is an architectural blend of Persian, Islamic and Indian design. The Taj Mahal and its surrounding complex are one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. It is worth noting that while there are efforts being made to protect the Taj, pollution is harshly affecting the stunning white marble. 

Marvel at the wonder that is the Pyramids of Giza

Only one of the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World still exists. That wonder is, of course, the Pyramids of Giza. The pyramids are located on the outskirts of the bustling metropolitan city of Cairo. In fact, you can see the skyline from the Pyramids, a crazy blend of old and new.  A visit to Egypt just is not complete without taking time to kiss the Sphinx. Built almost 5000 years ago the Pyramids of Giza are a truly exceptional architectural feat. While there are still many theories on exactly how and who built the Pyramids there is no doubt it belongs on every travel bucket list. Seeing the way the dust kicks up off the camels’ hooves as they pass through the desert is truly any photographer or travelers’ dream. 

Nile river boats in aswan egypt

Tour the historic walls of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia 

Close your eyes and picture your self visiting Russia. There’s a really good chance you pictured the colors, patterns, and shapes of St. Basils Cathedral. Located at the southern end of the famed Red Square. St Basil’s Cathedral has become Russia’s most iconic building. A UNESCO World Heritage site that was ordered to be built by Ivan the Terrible in 1561. The interior of the cathedral is smaller and more compact one might expect. However, while visiting the ornately decorated nine chaples you will often find choral groups singing. 

Explore the Magnificent Petronas Towers in Malaysia 

Malaysia was home to the tallest building in the world from 1998 to 2004. Located in Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Towers are still the tallest twin towers in the world. To get a birds-eye view you can buy a ticket to go inside or view this stunning architectural feat from the ground. On the 41st floor, you can walk the sky bridge, the highest of its kind. From there you’ll keep traveling upwards to the 86th-floor viewing platform where you’ll see the whole city. Built by an Argentinian architect there is a distinct touch of Islamic influence. With five tiers of the building representing the five pillars of Islam. Make time on your visit to Malaysia to check it out in the evening, they are truly stunning lit up at night. 

Snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef

The world’s second-largest coral reef is located in Belize. No matter if you are an expert scuba diver or snorkeling for the first time, Belize is right for you. There are over 500 species of fish that call this reef home. If you are interested in becoming PADI certified this is a great destination to do so. If snorkeling is more your speed, you can expect to spend lazy days under the sun spotting more sea life than imaginable. If you’re looking for a Caribbean destination Belize is a great option. 

Trek with Gorillas in Uganda

Be prepared to get a little sweaty and dirty on this adventure in Uganda. You’ll be hiking though the thick mountains of Uganda looking for the mountain gorillas. With nothing between you and these massive animals, your anticipation will be building with every step. While there is no barrier between you and the gorillas they are very familiar with humans. Take the time to observe them with their families in their most natural habitat. When you’re packing for this one don’t forget to pack some patience. Even with an experienced guide, it can take hours to track the gorillas down.