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The NYT Wants You to Think Your Favorite Classic Children's Books Are Secretly Gay-Themed

Mixed race kid sitting on library floor and reading book.

Just when you thought it was safe to share your favorite childhood classics with your kids, the New York Times goes and ruins it with an article called "The Gay History of America's Classic Children's Books," by Jesse Green. From Frog and Toad to Goodnight Moon, we are told that our beloved stories are awash in "a secret language of queer compassion." I'm always bemused when people claim that beloved fictional characters are gay. A few months ago it was "Sesame Street's" Ernie and Bert, whose closet door was abruptly slammed shut by their creator, Frank Oz, after he got annoyed by the nattering Nancies who would not stop speculating about the hand puppets' sexuality.

And yet, the speculators keep it up. It always seems rude to do this to beloved characters, especially when each character means something different to each reader. Harriet the Spy (who I've now been informed is a lesbian or something) was one of my favorites. It's not just queer kids who are left out and in need of compassion, as this author suggests, but any kid who is deemed "different," as I was for being a gregarious know-it-all who liked school and would randomly break out into song. It was a rough beginning. The narrative that only queer kids need compassion is tiring. All children need someone to make them feel special. #AllKidsMatter.

The other bothersome thing about this particular story is that Green claims that all of the authors of the books in question were gay while admitting that some were "in the closet." If that's the case, what business does Green have outing them like this? We live in a time when everyone and their emotional support animal has some queer identity, complete with preferred pronouns, plastered all over their social media. We couldn't avoid it if we tried. But there are people who prefer not to shout their sexual preferences to the world and just want to live quiet lives. Outing people who haven't outed themselves is rude. Green writes,

[T]hey won Caldecott and Newbery Medals for books that, without ever directly speaking their truth, sent it out in a secret language that was somehow accessible to those who needed to receive it. And not just to them. These works comforted the proto-gay but also tenderized the proto-straight in a way no other literature could.