Black Queer Children’s Books Matter
Black queer children are watching
What are we telling these curious, impressionable minds about themselves? Are we affirming their identities? Or are we alienating them from their identities?
Black queer children are watching us and looking for signs from the world that it’s safe to be who they are. Yet, the anti-gay rhetoric of many U.S. politicians, classmates who continue to say “no homo,” and increased violence against Black queer people are all reasons that can keep a child in the closet, confused and unwilling to explore their identity.
Sometimes, the only place a Black queer child can feel welcomed is within the pages of a book. If today’s Black queer children are growing up as I did, that book would also be hidden under their bed, tucked away from their parents.
I always knew I was different, and I also knew I had to guard this secret from everyone because I wasn’t confident I would be accepted. After my parents found out, they wondered if maybe I’d have turned out straight if grandma hadn’t bought me that Easy-Bake Oven or if they forced me to play football. In truth, there’s nothing they could have done that would have changed the fact that I have had a crush on William Scott since pre-K.
“Did they think reading a queer story would make me more queer? Never did a book written by a straight author make me straight.”
I believe I came out of the womb gay, although I didn’t always have the language, let alone the confidence, to describe exactly how I felt different. Reading books that reflected my experience could have been my playground to explore that language. It could have helped explain what I was feeling and thinking at the time, validated my perspective, and provided rich illustrations to reflect tangible, real, positive examples of what my future could look like.
But I was enrolled in a private, Catholic school — one that banned Harry Potter because the faculty thought sorcery and witchcraft were the “devil’s tools.” Books such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower — which has a queer storyline — had no chance. I couldn’t easily get my hands on books featuring characters who looked like me. What…