Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in Salt Lake City on Dec. 16, 2021. Credit: Rick Bowmer / AP

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Chandler Williams is a veteran Broadway actor from Winter Harbor.

There was a delayed sense of irony as I read about the censure of books at Sumner High (now the Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus) and other school libraries. The Jan. 19 edition of the Bangor Daily News reported that Hermon’s Town Council is also deliberating what constitutes “controversial content” among their students, and will survey residents to the tune of $5,000 from taxpayers. That’s while an opinion column in that same day’s paper reminds us that the practice of conversion therapy, which can induce suicide, remains legal to perform on minors in half the states of our country.

The irony was almost lost on me because my initial thought was, why at this point in my life should I care about all that? I’m married and a father now, enjoying a life I hadn’t imagined possible back when I stalked the halls of Sumner. But then of course, it hit me.

In the 1990s when I was between the ages of 12 and 18 there were no books, clubs or open discussions about L, G, B anything. The T and Q hadn’t expanded the acronym; the I and A not yet considered. But I was lucky. I had friends who supported me, parents who loved me and perhaps most of all (and certainly thanks to the aforementioned), I had an indefatigable belief in myself.

Still, I remember the intimidations I swallowed more than once during my four years at Sumner, and imagine what it might have meant back then to have the tools available to our young people now. Tools like the two books “Queer — The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens” by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe that have raised such concern among committees they’ve been pulled from the stacks. Not banned but relegated to the guidance counselor’s office where access to them may be meted out — provided students come with a written permission slip from their parents. That decision should ensure the collection of some considerable dust on their covers.

Of course, removing books from a library in 2023 isn’t likely to keep the ideas they represent away from those who are in need of them. Those students will, as I did, accept the challenge to find championship elsewhere. The inclusion of books like these, shelved alongside the multitude of others celebrating the heterosexual experience, is important. School library catalogs should be varied enough to allow any student the chance to find representation and know they are not alone in their questioning or understanding of themselves.

As for the concern of sexuality and gender being topics inappropriate for adolescents, I seem to recall the onset of puberty being the very point in life when such themes became pretty hard to ignore. Again, I was lucky; my sexuality was not a topic that I felt required questioning, much the way my parents and straight friends felt no need to question theirs. But I suspect there are a great many young people, much to the shame of their parents, wholly devoid of support systems and the courage that grows from unconditional love. When you have no one to advocate for you, a book can become a lifeline.

The tired argument that the “Gay Agenda” is to mislead youth, derailing them from an otherwise straight-forward path, is one best extinguished by a simple truth. How’s this: The indoctrinations I was subjected to at every turn (by every film, advertising campaign, you name it!), indeed, as unrelenting and all-encompassing as the “Heterosexual Agenda” is — well, it never managed to change the course of my life.