In January of 2022, the local school board where I live voted in a new member. Normally, this isn’t something that makes headlines, but this particular member—one Kirk Twigg—was a bit different. 

Just two months earlier, Mr. Twigg—during a live, public school board meeting—decided to make a name for himself. In discussing the so-called growing issue of children reading, he said, “There are some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at.” 

The book that Mr. Twigg took issue with? Adam Rapp’s 2004 33 Snowfish about homeless teenagers that discusses sexual abuse, drug addiction, and sex work. This book was named one of the Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association in 2004. 

But then it went further; during the same meeting, another board member—Rabih Abuismail—said, “I think we should throw those books in a fire.” He continued: “I guess we live in a world now that our public schools would rather have kids read about gay pornography than Christ.” (Yes, I am aware this sentence doesn’t quite make sense, but consider the source.) 

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about the growing movement to ‘save our children’ from the evils of queer authors and Black authors writing about the queer experience and the Black experience. Some believe that certain people are indoctrinating children into becoming subservient, mindless drones who worship at the altar of ‘wokeness.’ 

‘Children shouldn’t be reading about queer people! They should be allowed to just be children!’ 

I was eleven years old when I knew I was queer. It wasn’t abuse that made me that way, it wasn’t a book, it wasn’t seeing queer people on television, or a teacher telling me about their families. No, it was because that’s who I was supposed to be. Did I need to be saved? Yes, I did, because I grew up in a household where who I was wasn’t something to be celebrated. It was to be mocked, derided. Oh, it never crossed into physical abuse, but words can hurt just as much as a curled fist. I remember being thirteen years old and being made fun of by my stepfather for loving to read. Imagine, mocking a child because he found something that didn’t make him feel so alone. 

I wish that queer people – especially the younger generations – were free to learn their history and realise that this has all happened before. 

In the 1950s and 60s, American Anita Bryant made a name for herself on the beauty pageant circuit. She also had a few semi-popular songs that came out during this time. Nothing to write home about, but she had a serviceable voice. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Ms. Bryant decided to take on a far more important mission than being a songstress or beauty queen: she was going to save the children from the evils of homosexuality. 

In Dade County, Florida, she launched the ‘Save the Children’ campaign where she denounced queer people, and said they shouldn’t be allowed to have access to children. It went as well as you might expect. She had people on her side, loud, angry people who thought the queer community were nothing but groomers and predators.  

But she was also met with opposition, queer people taking to the streets and fighting back. After all, it wasn’t long before this that the Black Cat—a gay bar in Silver Lake, California—was raided by police, inarguably setting off the queer rights movement. A couple of years later, the Stonewall riots would occur in New York. 

Ms. Bryant didn’t get very far, but it was because of her that the groundwork was laid for what we’re seeing in Florida now, with the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and the battle cry to ‘save our children!’ It’s strange, really, to have empirical evidence that time is a flat circle, and that people don’t learn from the mistakes of the past. I think I can safely say that most people—with the benefit of hindsight—consider Ms. Bryant to be a chode. The people who are trying to continue where she left off know that in two decades’ time—hell, maybe even one—they will be nothing more than an absurd footnote like she is. It’s what they will get, and it’s what they deserve. 

Ms. Bryant is still alive. She’s kept out of the spotlight in recent years, but I know she’s clapping her gnarled hands with glee as she watches people call us paedophiles and groomers. That’s alright because all you need to do is watch the following video to see what the queer community thought of her and her vitriol. Let’s just say she gets her…just desserts. 


See the response to Anita Bryant here. 

 They can try and stop us. They’ve tried before. They’ll try again. But here’s the thing: we are more than they are, we are stronger, and we will never back down.  

 Save the children? We’re trying. 

 TJ Klune’s queer fantasy novel, Wolfsong (Tor) is available now for £16.99 

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