LGBTQ Book Bans: Narrating the Crisis

Hello!

A deep dive into LGBTQ book bans with two of the nation’s leading researchers.

Today, we are joined by Sabrina Baêta and Tasslyn Magnusson. They are leading researchers in the United States on LGBTQ book bans in our schools. They led efforts to research and write the new 2024 PEN America report Banned in the USA: Narrating the Crisis.

Here is part of the official description: “This report provides data, alongside a comprehensive narrative of the censorship crisis affecting public schools. It shows the nuance of the current moment and damage that occurs when stories—compassionate, reflective, educational, and entertaining—are restricted or removed on the basis of fear, intimidation, or bigotry.”

Read the full report here: https://pen.org/report/narrating-the-crisis/

Check out our earlier coverage on Book Bans: thisqueerbook.com/book-bans/

Learn more about Sabrina and Tasslyn

Sabrina: sabrinabaeta.com
Tasslyn: tasslynmagnusson.com

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Host/Founder: J.P. Der Boghossian
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Transcript

This transcript is auto-generated by our recording platform Riverside.fm. This transcript does not include episode narration and contains the original full interview between J.P. Der Boghossian and today’s guests. It is approximately 85% accurate and will include spelling and grammatical errors. The time-stamps are auto-generated and most likely will not align with the audio file. For any quotation purposes, we strongly recommend referencing the audio.

J.P. Der Boghossian (00:12.398)
Hey everyone, this is JP Derboghossian, I am your host, and we have a special episode for you today of this queer book, Save My Life. As you know, we’ve been doing more programming and episodes around book bands. Please revisit our episodes from earlier this year on the band Book Club. And the researchers from Penn America have produced their newest report on book bands across the United States. It uh…

published, premiered, debuted in April of this year, and I am thrilled to have two of the lead researchers on that report who have been tracking book bands and queer book bands and are here to really dive into not just the data with us, but also the background, the stuff that we may not necessarily know is happening or is covered right in the news. And so

I would really like to welcome Sabrina and Taslyn to this career book, my life and Sabrina maybe we’ll start with you if you’d like to introduce yourself.

Sabrina Baêta (01:14.275)
Yeah, absolutely. So happy to be here. Sabrina Baeda, she, they, and I’m a program manager on the Freedom to Read team, which we colloquially call the Book Band team because we look at K through 12 public school censorship, which right now really looks like a lot of book bands. And I’ll pass it off to my research partner, Taslin.

Tasslyn Magnusson (01:35.786)
Tasslyn Magnusson. I’m very happy to be here as well. She, her, and I am, I actually don’t know what my official title is, with Pan America, senior consultant on book bands.

Sabrina Baêta (01:51.931)
Queen of the Index. We could have a lot of these. Goddess of tracking. We have a lot of unofficial titles for Taslin.

Tasslyn Magnusson (01:53.698)
Queen of the impact. Yeah.

Exactly.

J.P. Der Boghossian (02:01.826)
A neighbor. So I’m based in, folks know that we’re based in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Minnesota, and Taslin, you’re like a neighbor. You know the Loft Literary Center here in Minneapolis. You’re connected to the Twin Cities literary scene.

Tasslyn Magnusson (02:17.542)
I am based in Prescott, Wisconsin, so I’m really close.

J.P. Der Boghossian (02:21.286)
right across the river. All right, so the numbers, the numbers, the numbers. So the big number that popped out at me as I was reading the report was 4,349 bands just in the fall of last year, which is July 1st through December 31st. So can either one of you want to jump in and start unpacking what does that 4,349 book bands mean?

Sabrina Baêta (02:54.783)
Oh, it means a lot of bans. So many bans. So let me get a little bit into what a book ban is. And then maybe, Taslyn, you can pick up on what it means, what this arbitrary number actually means in context. So like I hinted at before, we track school book bans. So we’re looking specifically at K through 12 public education. And each ban is an instance of banning. So it’s when one book, like The Hate You Give,

Tasslyn Magnusson (02:55.662)
So many book bands.

Sabrina Baêta (03:24.637)
like Queer Ducks, my Elliott Schaefer, gets banned and pulled from a district. But we always say it’s a severe undercount because I’m not gonna get into the kind of boring methodology of it, but we rely on publicly available records. We have to have all the titles. We have to have really vetted information. We don’t count classroom copies. So if you had 20 books that were pulled, we only count that as one. And then we don’t count bans across years, and that’s a big one. If a book is banned in one year,

carry over as a band continually into the next year. There’s a lot of reasons for that and mostly that schools aren’t calling us up and letting us know when they’ve banned or unbanned a book. And we say they are not taking Genderqueer off the shelves and then giving me a call to let me know it’s happening. So just to give you a little boring methodology, but just to say that it is a severe undercount, as big as the number is, it’s a severe undercount of what’s happening. But the reason why we should see a number like over 4,000 in semester and be scared

J.P. Der Boghossian (04:05.31)
Hehehehe

Sabrina Baêta (04:24.577)
bit alarmed is because of our previous tracking. Do you want to talk about that a little bit, Taslin?

Tasslyn Magnusson (04:32.97)
Sure. I started tracking this on my own in fall of 21 and I, Laurie Halse Anderson, who wrote the amazing speak, she said someone should keep track. And I was like, yes, I can do that. I can manage a Google spreadsheet. And it was a giant, giant mess.

J.P. Der Boghossian (04:38.98)
Wow.

Tasslyn Magnusson (04:56.686)
And then I joined Pan America and I met Sabrina and together we have made magic of the worst possible thing. I think what we have seen is a growing increase every semester of more books. More kinds of books, more topics, more impacted students across the country. And people keep asking us…

all the time. Is it slowing down? I heard Moms for Liberty lost some key races and what we say is no we’re very sorry it’s not slowing down. And the other thing to remember too while we count books one time this may affect multiple copies. So if there’s 4 000 titles that have been banned

Sabrina Baêta (05:38.489)
Yeah.

Tasslyn Magnusson (05:55.862)
that could be literally tons of thousands of actual copies of books leaving schools. And so it’s kind of astronomical when you think about how many books this could be.

Sabrina Baêta (06:09.239)
Yeah, in this semester, unfortunately, you know, we’ve, you’ve mentioned the 4,000 figure. 21, 22, it was around a little over 2,500 bands. 22, 23, it ended up being 3,300 bands. It was a 33% increase just in one semester.

J.P. Der Boghossian (06:22.049)
Mm.

Sabrina Baêta (06:28.707)
We have over 4,000. So if you’re going to ask, will this year be more? It’s already more. We could count no more bands for this next semester. And we would already have more bands. So it’s just an astronomically high number of books that are being censored.

J.P. Der Boghossian (06:33.829)
Yeah.

J.P. Der Boghossian (06:45.07)
So the state that had the most, which I don’t think anybody would be surprised about, is Florida, with 5,107 bands, which is far and away the biggest of anybody. And that’s where Moms for Liberty, I think, is based. I’m not quite sure. But then there’s Texas, which is 1,500 bands. Okay, I’m like, okay, yeah, that I can see that. What happened next, though, really threw me to see Pennsylvania.

was 650 approximately, and then Wisconsin with about 550. But the thing that really got me, and I wanna talk about as well, is that Wisconsin was the Elkhorn area school district that had about 400 book bands, but it was one parent that did that. Tell me more about that.

Tasslyn Magnusson (07:42.974)
In Elkhorn, I believe it was a mom sent a list. The list was crafted as many of these are from a variety of groups. I think it was a book looks list and asked the school to pull any and all books that were related to, that were on the list that were in the libraries. So.

the school did. And a lot of times when I meet schools in these moments, they, um, they’re unprepared. It’s a vast amount of disinformation coming at them all at once. And so using things like book looks that, um, excerpts out of context sentences to describe literature, they, they aren’t librarians. They aren’t teachers. They aren’t.

Usually even trained English teachers don’t become administrators. And so they are faced with a lot of information and a lot of very loud angry parents. And then they pull the books out of a reaction and then they start reviewing them. And that’s what happened here. And I think nearly all of the books are back on the shelf at this point in time. I haven’t checked in a while. But it’s…

they were off the shelf for a number of months. That’s something that we think is really important to remember because people say, oh, you know, it’s okay to review a book and pull it off the shelf, review it, put it back. But in the life of a student and a young person, that’s like exponential time. The need for that book is then, not in three months. And so it’s really important to keep those books on the shelves while they’re under review.

J.P. Der Boghossian (09:22.195)
Mm.

Tasslyn Magnusson (09:34.282)
And I love also that you highlighted Wisconsin and Pennsylvania because this is one of our really important points over and over again. While Florida and Texas have a lot of book bans, the laws, the legislation allows it to be amplified in pretty significant ways. This is happening everywhere. Blue, red, it does not matter.

J.P. Der Boghossian (09:58.587)
Mm-hmm.

Tasslyn Magnusson (10:01.122)
this is evident in communities across the country. And when we say it’s an undercount, it’s absolutely an undercount. And there could be the reasons why we don’t see as many in Minnesota, where I know that there are people organizing on this issue, is because a lot of the local papers have been reduced in outstate Minnesota, greater Minnesota, whatever we call it now. And…

there’s no access and no people reporting on it. And so we lose our access and the sort of way to get at that information. There’s nobody on the local school board.

J.P. Der Boghossian (10:41.378)
Oh wow. You know, that’s really interesting that you bring that up because I think folks in the Twin Cities, and I’m going to use Minnesota as an example here, but this may be playing out, you know, in your New Yorks or your Illinois or your Vermonts or mains where, you know, folks in the Twin Cities, which is, you know, ultra, ultra blue, whatever the bluest blue that you can use, right, would say, well, we’re better than Florida.

Of course that’s not happening here. No wonder we only have three, you know, bans in the current report. Well, that’s a really interesting point to make where there’s… A, we just don’t know because we’ve underfunded journalism and we aren’t counting them. So please don’t think that, you know, we’re being so great here in Minnesota. There could be things happening and that could be replicating. Clearly I see both of you nodding your heads in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, elsewhere.

Tasslyn Magnusson (11:25.879)
Yeah.

J.P. Der Boghossian (11:40.694)
I want to, so clearly we’re establishing there’s a trend happening here. And you have six trends outlined in this news report that came out in April and we’ll put links in the show notes and on our website for folks to read it. And I appreciate you’ve got a really lovely digest. I mean, it’s, you don’t have to be a stats nerd, I’m a stats nerd, but it’s really great how accessible that you make the document on the website so folks can just, you know, quickly get the information and digest it. And so…

The two words that kind of stuck out for me when I was looking through the trends were Ed Scare. So maybe is that a good place to kind of start the context of where these trends are coming from this kind of larger umbrella of Ed Scare, Education Scare?

Sabrina Baêta (12:27.831)
Yeah, no, I think that’s an excellent point. And it speaks to what Taslin was just highlighting, was that book bans don’t happen in a vacuum. It’s this entire context around them that is anything from underfunded journalists, education reporters in areas to the larger educational censorship movement, which absolutely happens with book bans, but is also happening in higher ed, is also happening. You know, PEN America kind of borrowed redskins.

is like a little punny language, but it is this kind of using what we call gag orders to restrict information that’s available in educational institutions. And we, you know, center it on public schools, but I already gave away the punch line, but public libraries are also facing this. Institutions of higher ed. I mean, right now, everybody around the country is watching what free expression on a college campus looks like in the turmoil and the battle.

over what free expression means and which lines to cross and which ones not to. So it really is this larger… We have book bands as a very tangible example, yes, but really it is just a good kind of quick way of being able to show what’s happening as far as educational censorship to curriculum, educational censorship to librarians, educators, really across the board. So that’s… we always kind of…

highlight that. So we’re doing the K through 12 freedom to read section of it, but we also have teams at PEN America that are looking at the freedom to learn in other spheres.

Tasslyn Magnusson (14:10.51)
I think the other thing that we always like to try to jump in and say is that while book bands are happening at a rapid level in any number of communities, many communities don’t have school libraries. They don’t have school librarians. Access is already gone in those communities because of the unjust way we fund education in this country. And so like while we get a lot of conversation about the book bands.

J.P. Der Boghossian (14:25.293)
Mmm.

Tasslyn Magnusson (14:40.47)
We also need to remember this is about access and places that don’t have school librarians that don’t have school libraries that don’t have class libraries are underfunded, under resourced also are incredibly hurt by the EdScare work.

J.P. Der Boghossian (14:58.789)
Mm-hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (14:58.871)
Yeah, we like to say you can’t ban a book that isn’t there. So if there are libraries too, then maybe having, you know, a lot of this is pushback against more diverse library collections. So if it doesn’t, books don’t have the content that they’re targeting in these bans, then you may look at a library and say it’s experienced no bans, but it’s because it’s not a representative collection perhaps, so.

J.P. Der Boghossian (15:03.016)
Hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (15:24.823)
What Tassin’s saying and then the issue of accessibility and having no libraries or no media specialist at all available.

J.P. Der Boghossian (15:33.03)
That’s a really good point. And that is actually particularly hitting home for me as I was looking for a book this week for one of our episodes. And I literally only had one library in a seven county region of a major metropolitan area that had a copy of it as a queer book. And I was infuriated about it. But anyway, that’s neither here nor there right now. Well, not that, maybe it’s an illustration of the point that you’re making.

I do want to start one of the trends that came up, trend number one in the report was censorship based on sexual violence. So unpack for us what does that mean that things are being censored because of sexual violence? Because I hear, you know, the right, and I’m sure the Moms for Liberty distort in that and go, well, we shouldn’t have our kids, you know, reading sexually violent things and it sounds on the face of it.

So, you know, obvious, but really, what’s going on here?

Tasslyn Magnusson (16:37.638)
Want to jump in Sabrina? Go for it.

Sabrina Baêta (16:40.231)
I’ll give an overview and you can add color commentary, Taslyn. I mean, really what’s happening here is that a lot of what’s getting targeted is sexual content, is what they consider to be sexual content. I’m going to use their terminology of sexually explicit, you know, the porn in schools argument. There’s no porn in schools. Like, I can squash that right here, right now. Put me on the record. There’s no porn in schools.

Sabrina Baêta (17:09.765)
why it even takes it one step further, is that we’re talking about violence and abuse, right? We’re talking about rape. So a lot of these stories are being miscategorized as having some kind of, you know.

titillating sexual content when it’s not. It’s a story of abuse, a story of violence, and many times these stories are survivor stories. These stories are talking about empowerment post that. It’s talking about, you know, a lot of times it deals with the author’s own experiences, and it’s meant to be written so that other people can feel either represented or seen or, you know, understand those around them.

And something to keep in mind is that we kind of look at these books and you almost assume their availability at any level. And these books, like a Toni Morrison, like is not, you know, sitting.

on elementary school shelves across the country. Toni Morrison is available to high schoolers mostly, and it’s appropriate for high schoolers to be able to read that and engage with that content. And when so many young people are actually dealing with sexual assault or personally dealing with sexual abuse, having a book there is a lifeline to them. Having that information available, many, you know, you’ve maybe heard of cases where students have been able to even say what’s happening to them based

So this is selected by expert librarians. These are not random books. They’re in each of old on their pedagogically appropriate And yes, I would agree that it’s difficult

Sabrina Baêta (18:40.335)
that it’s hard, these are hard conversations, that elicit hard, you know, these topics elicit hard conversations with students and it should, you know, these are, some of these students aren’t even, you know, I’ll hear them called children a lot, some of them are 18, some of them are 19, depending on, you know, like they’re going in to be prepared for the world and they’ve always, they’ve many times are the ones asking for these materials, are the ones asking to engage with it. So yes, I agree, it’s difficult, it’s uncomfortable,

J.P. Der Boghossian (18:55.335)
Mm-hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (19:10.289)
like having to think of students having to deal with this, but in the world we live in, they absolutely do. The authors have lived it, and now the own students are asking for these materials because they have lived it, and they deserve to have a resource that makes them feel seen and empowered.

Tasslyn Magnusson (19:28.15)
Yes, all of the above. One of a band author, Shannon Hale, she lives in Utah. She wrote a phenomenal piece for the main paper in Utah just about banning of books and banning of knowledge. And one of the things she said is that in silence and in absence of information, predators flourish. And so.

We are handicapping our kids. We’re taking away vital information and we’re treating this as if this is not a harmful thing that’s happening to them, but some sort of weird sex thing that we have to squash. And it’s very, it’s distressing, it’s difficult and authors and their editors spend an incredible amount of time.

about how best to create a story if this is part of their story to help young people see themselves in the story help it not be a harmful experience but a hard experience and so I think we just makes me angry every time every time

J.P. Der Boghossian (20:47.098)
Yeah, absolutely. I want to take a moment here to play some clips from previous episodes of this queer book, Save My Life, to really demonstrate, you know, we’re talking about these book bands, but to really demonstrate what a queer book can do. And that’s going to tee up the next part of the conversation that I want to have with Sabrina Taslin.

going to be clips here, put in an post. Okay, so, let me do that. As I was looking through the report, the next two themes that came out were specifically related to queer books, and you were saying that 40% approximately, I think it was like 36 or 37, of all of the book bands were queer books, and then the next theme was trans authors, trans stories, and trans students.

Can you unpack for our audience here? What is that trend? Like what is that actually looking like on the ground?

Sabrina Baêta (21:48.503)
Yeah, so it is a targeted attack on content, on queer content, on just larger LGBTQ plus community content and it is one of the things that, this is always the hardest part when I give presentations because…

For me, it’s personally hard as a queer individual. It’s hard to be able to look at a room of also, usually there’s always at least one queer individual in the room, right? Like we’re everywhere. So it’s hard to kind of like have that heart to heart and be like, once again, we’re being attacked. Like, can you, like, cause when you think of, you can probably already think of like, what types of content are likely getting banned? All right, like we’re gonna be pretty high on that list. And it’s really, really difficult,

it is true. One of the things I do here is, is it really what’s happening? Are you sure they’re not just attacking the sex in the books? Because it’s not about the book being queer, it’s about the book having this scene. It is about the book being queer. Because I’ve seen both examples of picture books where it really is just the two penguins who are raising a chick together. Or I’ve seen examples of the rhetoric that the challengers…

use so I can I can prove it with percentages 37% which if you think about a school library find me the school library that has 37% queer books in it like that doesn’t exist in a public school library in the country so it’s a completely outsized attack

J.P. Der Boghossian (23:16.422)
Mm-hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (23:23.535)
on that content, but I see the rhetoric that they use, and it’s very, very ugly rhetoric. There was one, my favorite maybe from this last report, my favorite, I say just in like more of a sarcastic kind of funny way, but this one challenger, she wanted this book removed because it quote unquote, promoted the lesbian lifestyle.

J.P. Der Boghossian (23:43.587)
Oh god.

Sabrina Baêta (23:44.747)
And I’ve always now I desperately want a hat that says lesbian lifestyle promoter, but they don’t try to hide the other. I know it would be an amazing merchandise line. We’ve got to start it. But they don’t try to hide the ugly. Right. So like I, as a researcher in telling this full story, I have to be transparent about that so that we know what we’re up against.

J.P. Der Boghossian (23:48.265)
Hahaha

Tasslyn Magnusson (24:05.814)
The very first thing I do when I do a training, like I do some trainings with library trustees, is I pull out every picture book that I can find that’s been banned, and I ask them to find the explicit sexual content. And they’re like, these are picture books. There’s no explicit sexual content. And you have to remember library trustees are generally older volunteers in their community.

J.P. Der Boghossian (24:20.65)
Mmm.

Tasslyn Magnusson (24:32.254)
very much the target to be alarmed by this rhetoric. And I’m like, find me the sexual content. And then eventually I have to show them it’s a picture of two dads or two moms in the corner. And they’re like, how is that sexual? That’s not sexual. We should tell them. And I’m like, nope, they understand. And that’s exactly what they’re saying. And this is what I want you to understand and walk away from this moment.

and understand the gravity of that kind of rhetoric and that language to be harmful to people. And it’s every time, every time they’re like, they try and tell me it’s not sexual. And I’m like, you’re right, it isn’t. But that’s what they’re saying. That’s what they believe. And that’s what we’re dealing with.

J.P. Der Boghossian (25:20.394)
So, unpack that further for me, because I think there is this… I’m not quite sure how to describe it, so I’m going to try to use my words here. This idea that, well, if we just show them, if we just sit down and, you know, we’re all, you know, calm and we have a dialogue and we just explain, you know, and educate them, then they’ll just see the light and everything will be fine.

and they’ll stop challenging the books. And it’s all just a big misunderstanding, right? Once they understand that it’s not sexual content, then everything’s gonna be good, right? And the sense that I got from the report and speaking with both of you is that, no, that’s not the case.

Tasslyn Magnusson (26:06.918)
No, no, I mean, we, one of the first like really deep dives Sabrina and I did together was the Walton report at Penn, which really took a deep dive on this horrible organization, Florida Citizens Alliance, and which their porn in schools report is, forms the foundation of a lot of the anti-LGBTQ attacks.

right now. And it’s really based around harmless little picture books that somehow promote the ideology that the lesbian lifestyle is somehow harmful to kids. And the things that we read in that report, I still remember, were awful. Were awful. And they played on the stereotypes of sexualizing the existence.

of LGBTQ people. They played on the stereotypes of harm, the stereotypes of gay men as predators. And just, it was, and that’s what sits at the core of these objections. And we’ll see the rhetoric come back again and again. The little girl sits on her daddy’s laps. That’s dangerous. That’s sexual. They don’t always say it so directly, but that’s what sits at the.

J.P. Der Boghossian (27:11.696)
Hmm.

Tasslyn Magnusson (27:34.322)
of it. And you can’t convince those people. You can’t, I can’t ask people to testify to their humanity and you can’t convince people who don’t see folks as human and as worthy of love and experiences of that. So we just have to keep fighting for the inclusion, for the books, for the books that we know kids need and love.

We could go deep into Florida Citizens Alliance. It’s awful. No.

J.P. Der Boghossian (28:15.693)
Sabrina, I’m wondering if you might want to share a little bit more about doing this on a day-to-day basis, given that you’re a queer person. I mean, I…

This podcast was my outlet for responding to, you know, book bans, but it tends to be more on the positive side of things. You know what I mean? I’m not sitting there and cataloging numbers. I’m not diving into these reports and trying to deal with reading every single day this, you know, hate speech and this dehumanization of queer people. So would you want to share a little bit about what’s this experience like for you just as a queer person?

Sabrina Baêta (29:02.007)
Yeah, I won’t lie, it’s difficult. And there are some days that it’s really difficult, especially when I’m really diving into the attacks, the reason for the challenges, when I’m getting nasty emails in my inbox questioning accidentally, like reaffirming my gender by questioning if I’m a boy or a girl, but that’s not how it was intended. It’s like you did a 360 so far that you, yeah, which is something, you know, it doesn’t happen very often, but it happens. Like, and it happens when you,

J.P. Der Boghossian (29:13.22)
Mm.

Sabrina Baêta (29:30.807)
Honestly, anybody, you know, any queer individual can relate to this probably of when you’re putting something out that’s going to be public, you can relate to this, I’m sure. So it’s difficult because sometimes I feel so full of the hatred, but two things really get me through it, and I’ve learned this from other wonderful advocates that I’ve talked to who do really hard work and sometimes even harder work than I do because I’m looking at a lot of information, I’m looking at a lot of attacks, but there’s people who actually

You know, face to face. And that’s have a great community around you. Have a great team. And that’s what I have on the Freedom to Read team. There are many, there are times when I’ve messaged Aslan and said, I’m done. I’m calling it a day today. Like, here’s the story I left off on. I cannot see one more, you know, slur used against me today. Like, I cannot do it. And the reason I do it is because I want…

J.P. Der Boghossian (30:14.011)
Mmm.

Sabrina Baêta (30:28.051)
I want my voice represented in this. I want to be the one who’s doing it. I feel like I offer a good perspective on it and as a researcher.

I feel like it’s my duty to be able to catalog this and help my community. But the second thing is fostering queer joy every second outside of this. And I do that as intentionally as possible. And that includes reading a lot of sapphic romances. I try to read as many. A lot of times people will ask me, you know, like, are you reading the reviews? Are you reading the negative, you know, past five o’clock? I am done. I’m not reading one article, one report, one whatever. Like I am going.

J.P. Der Boghossian (30:45.506)
Mm-hmm.

J.P. Der Boghossian (30:52.158)
I’m going to go to bed.

Sabrina Baêta (31:07.277)
and getting my little soccer sapphic romance novel and sitting down in a chair. And that, and I’m only full of Heartstopper and planning, I plan a bi-monthly dyke night where it’s just me and my 50 closest dykes. And we’re just.

J.P. Der Boghossian (31:15.323)
Hmm

Sabrina Baêta (31:24.951)
like dressing up in prom themes or outer space or whatever. And I fill my life outside of that to remind myself that everything is not doom and gloom, especially right now. I think it’s so, you can be pulled under the tide so easily because it is surrounds us. Every time you check your phone, there’s notification of a new atrocity happening to your community or somebody else’s community that you care deeply about or your friends or your loved ones. And I do.

J.P. Der Boghossian (31:42.266)
Mm-hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (31:51.655)
I think there has to be intentionality with that queer joy for us to do. So something like this podcast I think is wonderful. The reason why I’m saving these stories are because these stories saved me first. That is the reason we do this work. They continue, even as I work every day, they continue to be my sources of hope, of inspiration, of the reason why the next morning I’m going to get up. I also say it’s a little bit of spite. Let’s say 10% spite in there is why I do this.

in dark humor sarcasm, but otherwise, with the lesbian lifestyle promoter, if I make a lot of money off this merch line, then maybe it’ll all be worth it. But really, the reason is queer joy and community.

J.P. Der Boghossian (32:33.414)
you’re gonna clean up at pride this year with that merch line. So.

Sabrina Baêta (32:40.499)
I got a table.

J.P. Der Boghossian (32:41.266)
You’re gonna need a whole tent. No, I thank you. Thank you for.

advocating for very clear boundaries. I think there’s a lot of activists that I have met who feel like they have to be in the fight 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They need to be responding to the text messages and the comments on Twitter. I’m going to dead name that thing the hell out of that following Hannah Gadsby is doing. Dead naming it. Twitter, they got to respond to those. They got to be emails at 4 o’clock in the morning and Saturday nights and they burn out.

You know what I mean? And it’s just so thank you for modeling that and sharing that because it’s not, you’re not doing a disservice to the movement by taking a time out and saying, I’m going to binge watch Heartstopper right now. You know what I mean? Like I’m going to take time for me does not mean you’re less committed to the fight.

Sabrina Baêta (33:36.372)
Yeah.

J.P. Der Boghossian (33:41.274)
And it’s also what irks me and why I have to take social media breaks when I see the cynical gays coming after like Heartstopper or, you know, Hallmark Christmas gay romcoms. And like, that’s not realistic. You know, that’s, that’s so blah, blah. And I’m like, STFU, like, I need that. I need heart. Like we get to have that too.

And sometimes that’s just what we need, you know what I mean? We need the candy, we need the joy, we need that queer joy. And the whole point of it is sometimes the whole point is that it’s campy and it’s not real and we need that, you know? But I do want to take a moment here to play some more clips from the show. Yeah. Yeah, go for it.

Sabrina Baêta (34:23.535)
Yeah. Sorry, can I just add one more thing? Sorry, I just wanna add one more thing with this. And it is real.

Like, oh my god, like it’s not always a struggle to be queer. Like, let’s just please like know this. Like sometimes you do have a heartstopper love story. Like I’m in love and to me it is like a fairy tale and nothing about it is bad except for the external crap we have to deal with sometimes. So like not to go it all, it gets a better campaign right here, but I’m just gonna all it gets better campaign right here. Like it gets better. And like the reason we do this is because it’s so joyous and there’s nothing like being in a disco ballroom

you know, queers like dancing through the night and like, I don’t know, sometimes it is that good. You know, it is as cheesy as the media shows it to be. So like, let’s show that too. And yes, we can have the coming out stories. I cried to those and that healed me, you know, when I was going through that experience, but.

also getting to see just two women holding hands. That also heals me too. So like let’s just have it all and like I’m not going to tell an advocate how they have to like run their lives but babes we deserve the good as much as we should fight the bad. Like that’s what I always think is like I actually do deserve to be like saturated in the good and that’s what I hope. I hope I can fight enough so that the next generation gets more of the good.

J.P. Der Boghossian (35:23.011)
Mm-hmm.

J.P. Der Boghossian (35:43.182)
Yes. Put all of that on a t-shirt and a mug too, Sabrina. You’ve got… That’s like the… that’s like a… that’s your Barbie speech, you know what I mean? From the movie. That’s… that right there.

Sabrina Baêta (35:49.826)
Haha, that entire speech.

Tasslyn Magnusson (35:50.561)
No!

Tasslyn Magnusson (35:58.283)
Yes?

Sabrina Baêta (35:59.727)
Give me my Oscar nom.

J.P. Der Boghossian (36:02.463)
I do want to talk about resistance, but before we get to that, I want to play some clips from the show talking about the importance of representation and what these books can mean and how they do change lives.

J.P. Der Boghossian (36:17.142)
Okay, I know a lot of folks just want to jump into the resistance things like right away, and they don’t want to take the time to fully understand what are the numbers and what are the trends and where are things going. But something that I want to come back to in terms of the resistance is really kind of hammering home the point that changing hearts and minds isn’t necessarily the tactic of resistance that we want to be going for.

But I’ll turn it over to you, Tassin and Sabrina, about what are our options and what does work when we’re going for resistance here to book bands in the US.

J.P. Der Boghossian (36:58.042)
Big question, solve it all right now.

Tasslyn Magnusson (37:00.974)
I’m still thinking about Sabrina in love and what a joy it’s been to watch her fall in love. Like, it’s just been amazing. She deserves it all. So resistance. Okay, you gotta remember, this is… It feels like it needs to be solved today.

And I always want to solve it today, but this is a long-term battle against forces of intolerance and hate and racism and homophobia that we’ve been dealing with for a long time. This is just a really media savvy moment. I don’t know, or media shiny moment.

Tasslyn Magnusson (37:48.214)
But so, you know, buckling, take care of yourself. Make sure that you’re keeping good boundaries. I don’t keep good boundaries. I learned from my team, I learned from Sabrina that the book fans will still be there. Other forms of resistance. I am not a Donald Trump whisperer. I tell everybody that. And by that, I mean like…

J.P. Der Boghossian (37:51.761)
Mm-hmm.

Tasslyn Magnusson (38:13.27)
I don’t know, maybe if you feel the need to go convince someone that their hate is wrong by all means. But they are actually a small group of people. They’re very, very loud. They’ve been sitting and gaining power for a long time, but that’s a small amount. So we need to wake up the folks that are sleeping and we need to get them speaking for amazing books. There’s nothing better than literature for young people right now. Like it’s a renaissance.

complex, beautiful stories. There’s funny middle grade. There’s wise YA that is like just beautifully written. So like get in there and start fighting for the stories. And you don’t even have to like say, I hate bad people who are doing this. You just have to say what you love every single day, loudly, publicly, positively, and do it before the banners come to your neighborhood. And

The people that have taught me this have been both the authors.

When they speak, they don’t speak to the hate. They speak to the amazing craft, the amazing stories of young people reading their books, and the kids and the young people. I always call them kids. I should not. They are like grown people. They’re just younger. But that’s what they’re asking for. They’re asking for the world that they want and deserve. They’re not worried about the hate.

They’re like, tune it out, put it over here. And I have watched that attitude begin to shift communities. It’s sometimes too late. Those books are gone in some of those communities. But the capacity and the ability to build community and connection with each other, that’s what is the resistance. That’s the connections that you’re making. That’s what’s making a difference.

J.P. Der Boghossian (40:06.118)
Mm-hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (40:15.331)
Yeah, and I think Tesslyn really highlighted it publicly, loudly, positively, like that really is what it’s about. A lot of people too, this is a national problem, but go local. The national problem none of us can solve. Like for me, even I started putting my money where my mouth is and I live in Michigan. And I started going to my local community, even though I’m tracking this on a larger scale, and started just asking.

You know, the teachers, the institutions, the public libraries, what’s going on? Do you need help? Do you need support? You can do so much proactively. You know, you can, if you send a librarian a letter that says, hey, that pride display you had was awesome. Thank you so much. They can use that if there ever is a challenge, if they, to anything, you know, to a queer book, to a display, because they can say, hey, I know I got this one challenge, but I have like five letters that are telling me they really appreciated this in my community.

I think we almost pass by those things and they should just be understood, accepted, by going kind of that extra mile, going that extra step of saying, okay, no, I’m going to show my appreciation. Or if you don’t see it, be like, hey, I would like to see a Pride display in my library. Or like, you know, I notice the curriculum, if you have a connection to, you know, the local school district, I notice your curriculum doesn’t feature any queer books. Like, you can be as loud as vocal, but much more respectful and patient than the book van.

J.P. Der Boghossian (41:37.094)
Mm-hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (41:40.277)
because really educators a lot of this is happening under fear and intimidation they feel so alone they feel so targeted they feel like they have a thousand jobs I mean what’s that law now that is gonna arm teachers are you kidding me right now like on top of everything that you’re gonna add that to their plate like they’re just they’re floundering because they’re not getting paid what they’re supposed to get paid and they’re not getting the respect they should you know they deserve to have so

J.P. Der Boghossian (41:51.546)
Yeah, Tennessee.

Sabrina Baêta (42:07.835)
Please go and support them, form community, like feel-

Connected to those groups and even if they’re acting out of fear and intimidation So, you know try to show consideration to that because I guarantee you you’re going to get a Relationship out of that like people don’t go into education for the glamour of it Like they are looking to change kids lives for the better. So what like fostering those connections building those bridges Being as loud as the book banners in a respectful way is the best way to do it and go local Like you can really do this on a small

or as big a scale, go to your school board meeting if you’re really feeling feisty, but it’s really important that you’re there because if there’s one voice that’s screaming, that’s really loud. But if a bunch of other voices start coming up and being like, excuse me, no, we don’t agree. We actually value our queer kids and we want them to feel safe and represented in our schools, then how can you fight against that? So really do it. So right now we’ve seen huge student resistance, which is great, but do it so the students don’t have to.

J.P. Der Boghossian (43:08.602)
Mm-hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (43:10.083)
You know, like they’re the students, they’re the kids, like they are fighting for their rights, but do it so that you can stand up for them.

Tasslyn Magnusson (43:10.722)
Yeah.

J.P. Der Boghossian (43:17.714)
have if you have a book club maybe one month your book club goes to a school board meeting if you have a pile of unread books maybe you should be on a library board you know this is your invitation you may never have thought of that listener i’m talking to you right now listener if you have a pile of unread books and you never thought i should be on a library board this is your invitation to go to your local library and to get on that damn board

Sabrina Baêta (43:25.775)
fit. Yes. I love that idea.

Tasslyn Magnusson (43:26.4)
Yeah.

Sabrina Baêta (43:33.019)
Yes.

Tasslyn Magnusson (43:33.599)
Yes.

J.P. Der Boghossian (43:46.218)
But I, you know, there is something about that, having served in, uh, chief diversity officer roles in higher education that I started begging people towards the end of my like tenure of like, please send me anything about how you’re enjoying this or this, or you want to see more of this, because all I have in my inbox are people that want to shut everything down and that we shouldn’t be doing this. And it’s not just trying for me. I literally have nothing to take to the administration.

I have my smarts for whatever that’s worth. You know, I can go in there and say, you should do X, Y, and Z. And here’s the research Y, but do you know how much more powerful it would be if I had five? Five, I’ll take five emails with me, you know, right now. But I think that is, I mean, I know it’s that, is it cliche to say, you know, the way to fight hate speech is with more speech? Uh, but it is, there is a certain like level of importance to that of if you see a pride display.

send a note, it’s 10 words, you know, thank you so much for Pride Display, sincerely me. You know, I think that there’s so much about that people just see it and they appreciate it and they go, oh yeah, that’s great, that’s wonderful, and they don’t feel the need to have to communicate about that, and it’s so important to do that because they are, folks are using that, whether you think about it or not, people are like, well, what does my voice matter?

You know, who cares if I write a letter to a, you know, a librarian to say, thank you for the pride display. What is that going to do? It does a lot. They are using that information. So this is an invitation to everybody else, uh, in your school libraries and in your local public libraries. If you see something that you’re like, this is permission. This is the sign on the wall, the writing on the wall, reach out, send an email, fill out a comment form. Um, yes. Well, so

We’ve covered a lot of ground here in the past 45 minutes, but based off of the conversation and where it’s been going, are there things that are coming up for you that we’re not talking about book bands? Things that we should be thinking about in a different way, given that you two are like the national experts on this?

Sabrina Baêta (46:01.179)
I mean, for me, one of the main things is how intersectional this is. Of course, we’re taking a lens as to the queer books. But these are also books that have to do with race and racism, have characters of colors. That’s an even higher category. This is books that are also documenting sexual assault or about sexual health, also about learning about your own body. And let’s face it, when it’s banning books about that, it’s banning women’s bodies. That’s what it’s about. So it’s the kind of thing that it’s like,

You have to look at it through an intersectional lens. It’s the only one that exists. So it is like, you just have to have that viewpoint and know that it’s never going to stop. I almost feel like I hear this argument of like, they can take these three books, but they’re not gonna go after these 20 other books. Yes, they will. Once they attacked, I mean, they attacked, it was an anti-CRT campaign first, then it became an anti-gender ideology. And now I honestly think it’s just an anti-women’s body, women’s rights.

movement. So like to think like anybody listening who kind of is like maybe this doesn’t you know raise alarm is that it’s both intersectional in terms of kind of that content and what’s being attacked but also the areas that are being attacked. It was public schools and they were like well it’s just students who are going to be affected then suddenly it was libraries well it’s just library patrons that are going to be affected. I’ve seen like booksellers that are also getting attacked for this and now you see it on college campuses now you know like it doesn’t they’re not going to

J.P. Der Boghossian (47:18.117)
Mm-hmm.

Sabrina Baêta (47:30.309)
the line and they really do have this agenda of taking away these materials for everyone. So please if there’s ever a time to get activated I always say too that

you get activated the way you know is gonna be sustainable. Like if you are the kind of person who’s gonna get home after seeing the Pride display and you’re gonna forget to write the letter, that’s fine. But maybe don’t task yourself with writing the letter. But if you are great at public speaking, go to that school board meeting. If you can have that, you know, you’re charming and you can have that conversation, go to your local librarian and chat them up and ask them, are we doing a Pride display this year? Oh my God, I would love to see. Like even if you don’t have the thing you want yet, like use your skillsets.

to be able to promote a community that you want to be a part of. And it takes courage. Like it really, it is scary and none of us have time. But like it is surprising how one little action maybe once a week can make a huge difference. And if you’re ever in doubt, think about the queer kid you were. Think about how much you would have appreciated an adult doing that for you. Think about the first time you saw queer rep out there in the wild, the first time you saw a target line of pride clothing and we all…

J.P. Der Boghossian (48:14.418)
Mm-hmm.

J.P. Der Boghossian (48:29.01)
Hmm

J.P. Der Boghossian (48:38.805)
You

Sabrina Baêta (48:40.795)
blasted it and I get it, but also my heart warmed because I was like, now everyone’s gotta see it. Now everyone can be a part of it. Now, my mom’s gonna buy me a shirt unintentionally, but that’s okay. Because now it’s in, they just have to accept that it’s there while they’re shopping for bananas. And that’s amazing. So a little bit more of that and just a little action on your part is going to help, I think honestly will help heal the queer kid in you, but also will help the queer kids right now.

J.P. Der Boghossian (48:44.094)
Hahaha

Tasslyn Magnusson (49:12.082)
Yeah, all of that. All of that. I mean, I think it’s really hard for people to say the positive things. Um, I like they just don’t know how to do it. They don’t feel comfortable. If you’re a liberal, if you’re an ally, you’re like, do I really have to? And I’m like, yes, you must stand unapologetically loud and loving to all the parts of your community.

And it doesn’t matter if you think you sound silly. What you’re doing is you are giving those people in the room who are afraid, who are silent, who might be like on the fence, like a little bit of a Reagan, Republican maybe, who can go, oh, okay, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I don’t want them to tell, I’m not gonna read that book, but like I want that book to be available. So like you’re showing.

that there are other people here who will support those folks. And the moms who are like me, wake up. It’s so past time. I no longer have patience. I will help you talk. Public comment time in any kind of city, municipal county meeting, that’s just like open mic time.

J.P. Der Boghossian (50:26.899)
Thanks for watching!

Tasslyn Magnusson (50:38.994)
And so that is your time to just narrate the world that you want. And the more you do that, the better off we’ll all be because they’re coming hot and heavy for the books. And then, you know, read some of these books. I know you’re an adult. Probably. Read some of these books. They’re amazing. Amazing.

J.P. Der Boghossian (50:50.078)
Mm-hmm.

J.P. Der Boghossian (51:03.259)
Yeah.

J.P. Der Boghossian (51:10.262)
And you don’t have to write a sonnet, folks. It can be, that’s not the level of writing that we’re looking at here. You know, we’re not looking for citations, you know, APA style guide. You know, it’s as simple as, you know, thank you for doing X or I really want to see X, Y, and Z. My name is blah, and I live in this community. You know, it’s more simple than you think. It’s more simple than you think. Taslyn and Sabrina, thank you so much for.

Tasslyn Magnusson (51:10.271)
I can’t say that enough.

Tasslyn Magnusson (51:17.954)
Yeah.

J.P. Der Boghossian (51:39.026)
joining us on this very special episode of this queer book, Save My Life, which is really a part one, because talking about queer joy, we are going to be having a part two with some queer authors celebrating their books and them and their writing and the community. But Sabrina and Taslyn, thank you for joining us here and sharing your wisdom and your insight with us and our audience today.

Sabrina Baêta (52:06.903)
Yeah, absolutely. Happy to have talked today.

J.P. Der Boghossian

I want to thank Sabrina and Tasslyn for joining me on this special episode. We will be connecting with them again on future episodes. So stay tuned. Our podcasts are executive produced by Jim Pounds, accounting and creative support provided by Gordy Erickson. Our associate producers are Archie Arnold, K Jason Bryant and David Rephan, Natalie Cruz, Jonathan Fried, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olilla, Joe Perrazo, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith. Our Patreon subscribers are Steven D, Steven Flam, Ida Gotëberg, Thomas Mckna, and Gary Nygaard.

Our soundtrack and sound effects were provided through royalty free licenses.

Follow us on Instagram, facebook, or thisqueerbook.com for all the events and episodes we’re bringing your way this month. In the meantime, Happy PRIDE!