Stigma and Censorship

Go read Lee Wind’s post about his experience attempting to donate GLBTQ books to a junior high library, and then come back.  I’ll wait. 

Lee’s post got me thinking about the stigmas I fear, and the one I fear the most is the stigma on mental illness.  It was this part of his post that really spoke to me:

The choice is whether to be honest about how you feel inside.

But how you feel inside is your Identity.

How you feel inside, of course, includes if you are happy or sad, drained or energetic, hopeless, etc.  I don’t mean to diminish Lee’s point by pointing to these emotions; but mental illness – depression, bipolar disorder, and others – this is a part of your identity, I think.  And it can be scary to talk to people about it, because what will they say?  Will they call you crazy?  Will they be scared of you?  And then, what about any changes that may come from you trying to FIX the mental illness?  What if your meds make you gain weight?  And then people are calling you crazy AND fat.  Or if you used to be creative, and then when you got on meds maybe you didn’t want to kill yourself anymore, but you also couldn’t create anything?  Then people might think you’re dull, slow, stupid.

Talking about mental illness is not, I imagine, nearly as difficult as talking about sexuality.  (I don’t know for sure because I’ve never really had to talk about sexuality.)  And I would guess that donating books with main characters who have a mental illness – books like The Phoenix Dance, for example – would not present a problem at all like Lee found when he tried to donate the GLBTQ books.

But basically, Lee’s post made me think about how important it is for readers to see themselves in books, to know they are not alone.  Because what is a better moment than when you are reading a book and you say, “YES!  Someone understands me!”  

And every reader, every child, teenager, and adult, should be able to have that experience – readily available.

2 responses on “Stigma and Censorship”

  1. Amen!

    It’s a fascinating point you bring up – and I think very valid. Any difference from the “norm” that our culture demands creates this feeling of “outsider-ness” that I think makes all our disparate minorities actually the MAJORITY. People with mental dis-ease, overweight people, people with marginalized sexual and or gender identity – we all deal with not quite being “perfect” according to others, and we all have to go through a journey of accepting ourselves for who we are. And I think much of it comes to a flashpoint when we’re teenagers, and figuring out just who the hell we are. That’s why I’m so focused on YA books with GLBTQ characters and themes, because I know what a difference they would have made in my life when I was a teenager.
    Thanks for sharing my experience, and also for helping me see beyond what I had written.



    “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I Read?”


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