CatholicVote, which calls itself “America’s top Catholic advocacy organization,” has launched a “parent-led movement” called Hide the Pride to “empty libraries of LGBTQ content aimed at kids.” It encourages members of the public to first collect signatures protesting library Pride displays containing children’s books, then to check out all of the books on display.
They recommend bringing a friend to have multiple library cards at the ready. After the titles are checked out, they then advise to “place the Pride books on a shelf out of reach of children” and email or mail the signatures to the library. They also note: “Most of all, it is not a debate. You don’t have to make your case or get into arguments. If questioned, you might simply say you are local residents with library cards checking out books. That’s your right.”
Earlier this month, a conservative school board candidate in Maryland did the same thing, though she didn’t stop at kids’ books. Heather Fletcher checked out all the LGBTQ books on the library Pride display in the Brunswick Public Library lobby as well as taking a cup of pronoun pins.
She claimed, “This has nothing to do with the gay community. It has to do with the preservation of innocence” and that she was “concerned the display would lead to age-inappropriate questions from children,” especially in seeing the word “queer.”
Most public libraries use circulation numbers (how many times a book has been checked out) to determine popularity, so this strategy could backfire by suggesting to librarians that these are popular titles that should be kept and may even need more copies on the shelf. Libraries are also likely to have more LGBTQ books available to fill up the Pride display as soon as it is emptied — the purpose of these displays is to have the books checked out, of course, so they’re designed to be updated.
Commenters on CatholicVote suggest that the books be hidden somewhere else in the library instead, though this could also result in more getting purchased, if the titles are marked as lost and replaced.
Regardless of the longterm effectiveness of this strategy, it represents another way that conservative groups across the country are organizing to stifle free speech and deny other community members the opportunity to choose their own reading materials, for themselves and their family.
The increase in challenges and bans of LGBTQ books over the past two years, in public libraries and school libraries, shows a backlash to progress that punishes LGBTQ kids and teens the most. It makes public spaces a less accepting and safe place, it denies them essential resources that can save lives, and rhetoric like this is damaging for queer people of all ages, but especially young queer people, to have to hear.
The name “Hide the Pride” is chilling to me. LGBTQ Pride has been hard won. Every step has been gained through tireless effort from the community on many fronts. In a world that has taught queer people to be ashamed, Pride is a defiant, angry, hopeful refusal. And that fight is far from over. We cannot let that progress be taken away by reactionary bigots.
This month, be sure to let your library and library board know that you support their Pride displays. If they don’t have any, let them know you’d like to see them. And to join the fight against censorship in your community, study up with this anti-censorship tool kit.