Opinion: Virginia parents are not just attacking books—they are attacking LGBTQ+ identity
Loudoun county’s public school debate reveals ongoing criticism of the LGBTQ+ community
A Virginia county public school system is dealing with pushback after introducing “diverse classroom libraries” for elementary and high schoolers. Religious parents are mustering as much of their faith as they can to convince administrators to eliminate the selections that focus on LGBTQ+ characters.
Though these specific books in the library are the ones causing the most criticism, they only make up five percent of the selections. However, they make up almost half of the books being reviewed for potential removal by administrators following the complaints.
These numbers don’t add up if one considers the argument that the critical parents put forth. They claim that the books in question amount to “porn,” because they include passages on sexual experiences such as kissing and masturbation. Some parents even held signs at a school board meeting that read “Diversity is Perversity” to make their point clear.
But what’s really transparent is their true source of anger. To want to eliminate five percent of books in a 100 percent carefully-thought out library points to something else entirely. These parents are hiding behind small passages to avoid being criticized for the larger qualm they hold, which is that LGBTQ+ stories do not belong in the Loudoun County public school system.
If they actually wanted this community represented in the libraries, then the parents would ask to change the selection of books or keep some and replace the ones with the seemingly sexually explicit messages. However, that’s not what they’re asking administrators to do. They are asking for an ousting of the already too-small representation of LGBTQ+ stories. As D.C. residents, we are an hour away from Loudoun County, but many of us feel an immediate connection with the children who are being made to feel like they are outsiders.
We may beg the question: doesn’t God love all His children? If these parents are truly of faith, then they should recall Proverbs 16:4, wherein it says that God made everything for its purpose; children who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and nonbinary are then simply fulfilling theirs. Why should their parents stand in the way of who God intended them to be?
Religious hypocrisy aside, administrators should not give in to these parents’ requests. It’s their job as educators to help children and present them with diverse perspectives. The books can do a lot of good for children struggling with their identities. One local mom told the Washington Post that she wishes her son had had these resources when he came out in high school. “If he had been able to read a story, or 10, of how other people had come out and their lives didn’t end...it would have normalized his identity, his sexuality, in a way that would have made [his coming out] not so stressful,” she said.
Representation is an extremely powerful tool in helping youths feel accepted in society and more confident in who they are. Seeing people like them in the media they consume is a reminder that they are not alone, and that they can find a community of like-minded people who can provide support and guidance in life’s challenging moments. This is especially important if children believe that their parents are unaccepting of them. That, arguably, can be the most detrimental feeling for a child. These books can be their first step to finding solace.
AU prides itself on its LGBTQ+ community, and with the high geographic diversity, it’s likely that a good deal of students grew up in hostile places. It’s likely that a good deal of students at AU know exactly what the LGBTQ+ and questioning children in Loudoun County feel right now and that this issue hits close to home and leaves some feeling rattled.
But feeling that way should motivate us. As students studying international relations, public policy, journalism, visual arts and many other vital careers, we have the power to change future children’s experiences for the better. Although not all AU students identify as LGBTQ+, many consider themselves allies. This incident should remind us why we came to AU in the first place: to enact change.
Whether these parents truly believe it or not, God knows what He’s doing, and a PTA board isn’t going to tell Him otherwise. So they would do best to allow their children to have the tools to explore their identities now, before they start harboring resentment. The parents’ faith is not the issue; it’s how they claim to have it when they obviously couldn’t believe less in harmony and community. If they are going to complain about one passage in a bigger and more important story, then they should know that God would beg their forgiveness, as He would surely need it Himself if they judged Him as harshly.