More than 1,600 books were banned during the 2021-22 school year — and 41% of them featured LGBTQ content.
At PFLAG’s 50th anniversary gala on Friday night, host Amber Ruffin encouraged the audience to belt out thunderous boos while she read off statistics about school book bans.
An actor playing a loudmouthed teacher with an exaggerated Southern accent stumbled into the middle of Ruffin’s monologue. Waiving a pile of banned books in her arms, she declared her mission to eliminate LGBTQ content from her school library.
“I’m a public school teacher in Florida and I won’t stop until I’ve had every single book banned that has LGBTQ content in it,” the actor proclaimed before sifting through her pile of books with “inappropriate” content. “‘Frog and Toad.’ Two male frogs who hang out all the time and they’re just friends? I don’t think so!”
Earlier in the night, Ruffin told Variety on the red carpet that these book bans are one of the most “scary and sad” ongoing political issues in America today.
“The book bans are making me sick to my stomach,” Ruffin said at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. “It encompasses so many marginalized groups. They even went as far as to ban a book about Roberto Clemente — the baseball star! It makes no earthly sense. It’s a free-for-all [in red states]. Somebody needs to hurt some feelings — and I’m glad to do it.”
Since March 1973, PFLAG has worked to ensure the rights of LGBTQ Americans. During the gala, the organization honored rapper Big Freedia with the Breaking Barriers Award and Olympic diver Tom Daley with the George Takei Advocate Award.
“We are becoming more visible in every field out there,” Big Freedia told Variety. “More TV shows, more documentaries, just everyday life things that we need to be involved in. I would like to see our community keep supporting each other, not tearing each other down.”
A core part of PFLAG’s mission is building advocacy groups that include straight allies. “You” star Tati Gabrielle suggested that the film industry should hire more consultants to ensure that authentic progress continues to occur.
“I think that a lot of people are scared to ask questions because they’re scared to offend,” Gabrielle told Variety. “If people made [these situations] less fragile, it would open the doors and allow more comfortability for people to be able to feel like they can like say, ‘hey, what are your pronouns?’ And not feel weird to ask that question. I think it’s from both sides that we have to work together to build that warmth and invite those allies.”
In 2022, queer representation in Hollywood continued to blossom. “Bros” and “Fire Island” were two of the first gay romantic comedies distributed by a major studio, while Oscar-nominated films like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “Close” prominently feature LGBTQ+ storylines. Gabrielle said it’s important for Hollywood to normalize these stories without “making a big thing out of it.”
“People are people are people,” she said. “Give respect to the trailblazers in their fields, but also don’t highlight it in a way that makes it like abnormal or a crazy thing that’s happened. It’s like, no, that’s what should be happening.”