Bloody bills

Across the country, anti-LGBTQ+ bills are being proposed and passed. This is my story of how even a small thing, such as a book being banned, could change the course of a life.


Sila Duran

From banning books to banning medically transitioning, LGBTQ+ rights are slowly being whittled away.

You may have seen me walking down the hall with my cotton candy hair and flowered face mask, giving out compliments. I’m a club leader, an Eagle Scout, enrolled in four AP classes and still maintain above a 4.0 GPA. I try my best to make others smile. What you may not know, though, is how surprised I am to be here. 

When I was in sixth grade, 11 years old, I almost killed myself after realizing I was not straight. And whether it was because the only times I heard about the LGBTQ+ community were in hushed tones or whether it was something society had taught me without words, I thought that not being straight meant I deserved to die. However, not only am I alive today, but I proudly lead Colors Club, which celebrates and supports the LGBTQ+ community. 

In sixth grade, though, I believed that being gay made me innately evil and that if I were allowed to live, I would end up causing harm to others. I was bullied throughout elementary school, so I knew how much pain could hurt and resolved to never hurt anyone else. The idea that there was a possibility my existence could cause harm to others made me hate myself. I felt it would be better to kill myself than allow even the possibility that I could hurt someone someday. 

Every day, I struggled to wake up and go to school, ask and answer questions in the classroom, go to recess, eat lunch, return to class, answer more questions and go home. Then every night, I would struggle to get my homework done, trying to distract myself from the thoughts of deserving to die that invaded my head. When falling asleep, I was surrounded by empty space that my mind insisted on filling with questions of moral obligation. Was I morally obligated to die? Did I have a right to exist if my mere existence could cause others pain? How would my existence even harm others? 

I escaped with books. I could focus on the words, thinking about the paths the story could take and other what-ifs. When I was reading, I didn’t have to be “Jack Alden”; I could be “Leo Valdez,” cracking jokes and fixing things, or “Annabeth Chase,” the outgoing genius who knows the solution to every problem. I could be a hero saving the world, not feeling like I would end it. You may have guessed from the names of the characters, but in sixth grade, I was reading “The Heroes of Olympus” series by Rick Riordan. The fourth book, “The House of Hades,” is the reason I am alive today. 



What saved me from my suicidal thoughts wasn’t my classmates, a teacher or my family. It was one line in the fourth book of a sequel series. “‘I had a crush on Percy,’ Nico spat.” That one line told me that there were people like me, people that I looked up to and idolized. The book never suggests that Nico being gay is bad; instead it addresses his internalized homophobia and shows his journey to acceptance. Many kids never found this quote; some of them were fortunate enough to find other books showing them they are not evil, others are in graves. Some lucky kids never thought they deserved to die for being gay. Maybe I would have been one of those lucky kids if I had gotten the chance to read books with characters like me when I was younger. 

People across the country are trying to ban books with LGBTQ+ representation, claiming they are not child appropriate. Books that save children’s lives are not appropriate for children? 

And it isn’t just small, powerless groups trying to ban these books. It’s state legislatures too. States, including Iowa, are trying to and succeeding at passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Some of the bills they have proposed would ban books at school libraries, while many other bills reach even further. These bills are trying to do things like preventing any acknowledgment of the LGBTQ+ community until middle school and outing trans kids to parents; one law that was passed March 22 controls where kids pee. 

Without that one line from “The House of Hades,” I might not be alive today. How many lives will lawmakers be putting in danger by supporting these bills and laws? They are not just preventing access to knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community, but also sending a message that being LGBTQ+ is bad. Two of the proposed bills in the Iowa legislature this session would have banned gay marriage, despite our state, Iowa, being one of the first states to legalize it. 

Being told you do not exist and deserve fewer rights sends the message “you are bad.” It does not need to be said out loud to be heard; the silence speaks louder than words. These bills will cause deaths, some out of shame, guilt and self-hatred, and others out of fear of the future and of never being treated as human. You will be unable to notice or do anything to prevent each individual death, but you can prevent more laws like these from being passed and show your support for LGBTQ+ kids. 

To put it into perspective, I was 11. How much can an 11-year-old mask their emotions? How well can they fake a smile to the point of believing it themself? Are puffy eyelids, from crying one’s self to sleep, assumed to be from allergies? 

Not a single person noticed my deteriorating mental state, or if they did, they never once mentioned it to anyone. So don’t pretend like you can stop these deaths yourself by noticing suicidal behavior. If a child can trick everyone close to them into thinking they are okay, there is no hope for someone on the outside to recognize their hurt and help them. 

Books can save lives when someone doesn’t feel comfortable talking. Education can teach people to accept themselves and spread love. Having an accepting adult who will not out you provides kids with a person to confide in without fear. 

I urge kids to share their own stories and spread mine to inform people that these bills will cause deaths if passed. 

I urge parents to look at their kids and decide which is worse: their child with a pride flag or their child in a grave. 

Truly, which is worse? Having kids live happy lives as themselves, or having kids taught to hate and hide themselves, kill themselves, so you won’t have to acknowledge their existence. I hope you’ll agree with me that the worse outcome is the latter.