Several months ago, I learned that my book No Castles Here, wasn’t purchased by a school because one of the characters is gay. It came up in during a conversation I had with a teacher who had liked No Castles and was very excited about my new book, Come Fall.
“Tell me all about it,” she said.
I gave her a synopsis, and she nodded approvingly.
“Great! This one I’ll be able to get.”
I was confused.
“For the school,” she added. “I couldn’t get the other one, you know.”
My heart sank. “Because one of the characters is gay?”
She gave me a warm nod and a smile.
What she was telling me was that she was relieved that I understood. After all, this was common and to be expected.
I remember trying to get out of our conversation as quickly and as politely as I could. I remember wondering—how can this person be so blithe? I cannot recall anything else she said. And now, more than six months later, I’m still upset.
Why am I upset?
Sure, it meant one less book sale. But that is not the reason.
I’m upset because she expected me to understand and agree with homophobia.
I’m upset because she was complacent about the fact that others’ homophobia can dictate what books people can read.
I’m upset because schools are cowed by a minority of hate-mongers who limit the contents of library shelves to the lowest common denominator.
I’m upset because children, real children, with real feelings and real lives, are denied role models that might be like them.
I’m upset that the portrayal of a likable, kind and thoughtful mentor is suspect because he is gay.
I’m upset that the portrayal of a happy and healthy gay couple is cause for alarm.
I’m upset that the story of a boy’s refusal to cow to homophobia is somehow a problem.
I’m upset because I was a coward and did not call her on her homophobia; because I thought calling her on it would cause a scene in a social situation where everyone expected everyone to be polite.
I’m upset because, in my silence, I became complicit to both homophobia and censorship.
I’m still upset. But I won’t be quiet any longer.