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A moms campaign to ban library books divided a Texas town and her very own family

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This short article was stated in partnership with NBC News.

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Weston Brown was scrolling through Twitter last month when he found a video that made his chest tighten. It showed a female at a school board meeting in North Texas, contacting district leaders to require forgiveness.

“Repentance may be the word that’s on my heart,” she said close to the start of video.

For months, the girl in the clip have been demanding that the Granbury Independent School District ban from its libraries a large number of books that contained descriptions of sex or LGBTQ themes books that she believed could possibly be damaging to the hearts and minds of students. Unsatisfied following a district committee that she served on voted to eliminate only a couple of titles, the girl filed a police report in-may accusing school employees of providing pornography to children, triggering a criminal investigation by Hood County.

Now, in the video that Weston aquired online, she was telling the institution board a local Christian pastor, instead of librarians, should decide which books ought to be allowed on public school shelves. “He’d never steer you wrong,” she said.

The clip ended with the girl striding from the lectern, and the audience showering her with applause.

Weston, 28, said his heart was racing as he watched and rewatched the video and not just because he opposes censorship. He’d instantly recognized the speaker.

It had been his mother, Monica Brown.

Exactly the same woman, he said, who’d removed pages from science books when he was a kid to help keep him and his siblings from seeing illustrations of male and female anatomy. The girl who’d always warned that reading the incorrect books or watching the incorrect movies could open the entranceway to sinful temptation. And the main one, he said, who’d effectively cut him faraway from his family four years back after he arrived as gay.

“You aren’t invited to your house for Thanksgiving or any meal,” his mother had texted to him in November 2018, eight months after he revealed his sexual orientation to his parents.

Weston Brown shared texts that he’d exchanged along with his parents with NBC News, including that one along with his mother from November 2018. Credit: Thanks to Weston Brown

Weston, who lives along with his partner in NORTH PARK, had way back when comprehend the idea he could not again have a meaningful relationship along with his parents. He still loved them and desperately missed his younger siblings, he said, but he was done attempting to convince his father and mother that his sexuality wasn’t a selection or perhaps a sin. He was done challenging their religious beliefs and praying to allow them to change.

Until he saw the video of his mom at a school board meeting.

Lately, Weston has watched because the same foundational disagreements that tore his family apart have begun to divide whole communities. Fueled by way of a growing movement to say conservative Christian values at all degrees of government, activists in the united states have fought to remove queer-affirming books from schools, repeal the proper to same-sex marriage, turn off LGBTQ pride celebrations and pass state laws limiting the ways teachers can discuss gender and sexuality.

Stills from Monica Brown's appearances at Granbury ISD school board meetings on April 25, May 16, June 2, and July 18, in Granbury Texas.

Monica Brown, who served on a school district book review committee in Granbury, has called that process a sham. She filed a police report in-may accusing school employees of providing pornography to children. Credit: Screenshots of Granbury ISD video by NBC News

Much because the seemingly intractable arguments over America’s pandemic response and conspiracy theories concerning the 2020 election have resulted in fractured personal relationships recently, these clashes over gender and sexuality have pitted neighbors against neighbors, parents against teachers and regarding the Browns a son against his mother.

“It had been a very important factor when my parents’ beliefs were causing this rift between us also it was only a family matter,” Weston said. “But seeing given that she’s applying those same views to public activism, at the same time when so many basic rights are increasingly being challenged, I couldn’t stay quiet about this.”

Monica, 51, who has homeschooled all nine of her children and serves because the director of an exclusive Christian education cooperative, declined to be interviewed or answer written questions. In some email exchanges with NBC News, she initially invited a reporter to go over this article over dinner at her home in Granbury, however in a subsequent message, she said her husband wouldn’t normally permit the meeting, adding, “I have already been advised never to consult with you at all.” Her husband also declined to be interviewed.

In public areas, Monica has denied targeting LGBTQ books. At a recently available school board meeting, she said her only objective has gone to protect children from sexually explicit content gay or elsewhere.

“There is nothing about LGBTQ involved with this,” she said. “You can find LGBTQ books which are sexually explicit, yes. They’re wrong, too. If they’re between men and men, women and women, cats and women, dogs and women, whatever, that’s not appropriate educational content.”

That statement, however, doesn’t square with lots of the books that she’s flagged for removal at Granbury. Many of the titles on her behalf list feature LGBTQ storylines, but contain no sexually explicit content. Which includes “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier, a graphic novel that depicts gay and bisexual characters navigating the routine awkwardness of middle school crushes.

Of the nearly 80 library books Monica and her supporters want removed, 3 out of 5 feature LGBTQ characters or themes, in accordance with an NBC News analysis of titles posted on GranburyTexasBooks.org, an internet site where in fact the activists have compiled parent reviews of books they need banned. Along with sexually explicit content, the website demands books to be removed for “normalizing lesbianism,” concentrating on “sexual orientation” and promoting “alternate gender ideologies.”

Monica in addition has signaled anti-LGBTQ views in formal library book challenges that she’s sent right to Granbury school officials, in accordance with copies of the forms obtained by way of a public record information request. In a single instance, she criticized a biography of notable ladies in part since it included the story of Christine Jorgensen, a trans woman who made national headlines in the 1950s for speaking openly about her gender-confirmation surgery. She suggested replacing that book with a Christian biography series about girls and women who used their talents to serve God “biographies of truly great Americans,” she wrote.

After watching the video of his mom at the institution board last month, Weston skimmed through excerpts of the books she wanted pulled. It appeared to him that she and her supporters were pushing public schools to stick to a few of the same strict religious ideologies he says he suffered under as a kid.

He considered all of the students, at Granbury and in the united states, who might reap the benefits of reading the forms of books which were off-limits to him growing up.

With tears in his eyes, he began to type a tweet on the afternoon of July 3.

“That is my mom,” he wrote, with a web link to the institution board meeting video. “Seeing her advocate for the erasure of queer representation is crushing. Approaching on the 5 year anniversary to be effectively take off from my children and siblings after developing in 2018.”

He hesitated, knowing he’d be reopening old wounds for the planet to see. He didn’t wish to accomplish anything to hurt the girl who’d raised him, he said.

But looking to get librarians arrested?

Weston added yet another line to his post “Much want to those taking a stand and pushing back for representation” plus a rainbow flag emoji. And he hit send.

“The rejection you’ve chosen”

Weston has many fond memories growing up in the suburbs between Dallas and Fort Worth, about one hour from his parents’ current home in Granbury. He recalled summer days splashing within their backyard pool, family ski vacations to Colorado and hours spent at the general public library along with his mom, who fostered his love of reading.

“I didn’t genuinely have friends growing up, and likely to make new friends via fictional characters was always something I looked forward to,” he said. “It had been a beautiful solution to leave my world and go somewhere better.”

However in a conservative Christian home, some content was off-limits.

Even though Brown family’s bookshelves were lined with classics, such as for example books from C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” series, many popular titles were forbidden, Weston said. That included the Harry Potter series, which he said his mother, like a great many other conservative Christians, thought to be a satanic depiction of witchcraft.

Weston, the eldest child, said his mother also did her far better shield him and his siblings from words or images that may stir sexual curiosity. He remembered being told to check down at the ground anytime they walked through the women’s underwear section at shops. Even as a kid, he said, he was more intrigued by the marketing photos on display in the men’s section though he didn’t dare tell anyone.

The lessons on purity didn’t stop after he became a grown-up.

In 2015, when he was 20 but still coping with his parents, he returned home late one evening after seeing “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” a PG-13 superhero movie that his mother disapproved of. When he walked into his kitchen, he said, he found two pans of brownies looking forward to him, plus a stack of articles printed off the web concerning the corrosive influence of Marvel comics and films.

One pan of brownies was normal. Another had a label that warned it turned out baked with handful of dog poop mixed in.

“Poo anyone? Slightly?” Monica wrote later, when she posted a graphic of the brownies on Facebook. “Just how much yuck is an excessive amount of?”

The moral of the illustration, that is popular among some evangelical Christians: In the event that you wouldn’t eat brownies that may harm the body, then why can you expose you to ultimately movies, books or music that may harm your soul?

Her son was disgusted, but he didn’t rebel on the lesson.

“She made her point,” he said, “and we never spoke about any of it again.”

That has been exactly the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage a tectonic cultural development that disturbed many evangelical Christians. Afterward, Monica posted frequently on social media marketing concerning the “dangerous” gay agenda that she believed was on the march across mainstream U.S. society. She warned in posts that Disney was secretly pushing LGBTQ lifestyles on children in movies such as for example “Toy Story 4,” and shared a web link to a video alleging that pop star Katy Perry was conspiring with satanic forces to convince teens to embrace homosexuality.

Weston said he didn’t challenge his mom’s views while he lived with her. He’d spent years struggling to reconcile his desires with the religious values his parents had instilled in him attempting to convince himself that the butterflies in his stomach any moment he was around among the boys at church was just something friends felt for every other. It didn’t help, he said, that he’d had no meaningful sex education as an adolescent only a blanket instruction to abstain until marriage no knowledge of LGBTQ identities or what those letters even meant.

But by 2018, he was 23, living by himself and lastly confident enough to inform his parents what he’d always known about himself.

“Dear Dad and mom, I’m writing this to talk about a thing that I’ve wished to give out yet have held back for a long period,” he wrote within an email to his parents in February 2018. “It really is with great relief, clarity and vulnerability that I share this with you: I’m gay.”

He ended the note: “I pray you get this having an open mind.”

That prayer, he said, went unanswered.

On the next year . 5, he said, his parents tried to convince him he was mistaken. By way of a group of emotional lunch meetings, calls and texts, he said, they urged him to visit a Christian counselor in the hopes he could figure out how to overcome his homosexual urges. They invited Weston to church the main one place where they might allow him to see his younger siblings and openly wondered in what corrupting influences may have led their son down this sinful path.

For months, his mother sent him links to articles from Christian news sites with headlines like “Evidence shows sexual orientation can transform” and “It isn’t gay to straight, it’s lost to saved” links that she was simultaneously posting publicly on Facebook. But after Weston clarified that there is no prayer or summer camp that could change who he could be, he said his parents clarified he had not been welcome at their house, even on holidays or birthdays.

“You aren’t rejected, never, and never will undoubtedly be,” his father, James Brown, texted to him in October 2019, greater than a year after he arrived. “The approach to life you’ve chosen goes against God and for that reason this is the rejection you’ve chosen.”

His father added, “Maybe you have considered the pain you have put your mother and I through?”

That same day, Monica sent him a note on Facebook to state that she was praying for dark forces to be cast out of him.

“I specifically come against evil which has entered you from the movie ‘It,'” she wrote, discussing enough time when Weston, at around age 10, had watched section of the Stephen King mini-series in regards to a murderous clown. “Clown demons need to go in the mighty name of Jesus.”

She ended the message, “I really like you, Mom.”

“A raging fire”

Monica Brown’s campaign to rid schools of books that she considers obscene began late this past year with a vacation to the Granbury Middle School library, which sometimes hosts robotics competitions that her homeschooled children have competed in.

She started flipping by way of a few books while she was there and was disturbed with what she found, in accordance with a May interview she recorded with The Blue Shark Show, an area far-right internet talk show hosted by way of a Republican former state legislator.

“What I saw was negative, dark things nightmares are made from,” Monica said, without sharing additional information.

Her sudden fascination with library books coincided with a wave of similar book ban attempts in the united states this past year amid an evergrowing conservative backlash against school programs and lessons coping with racism, gender and sexuality.

The books which have drawn probably the most intense scrutiny, both in Granbury and nationally, are largely young adult novels and memoirs which contain passages with explicit descriptions of sex or rape, especially those featuring LGBTQ themes and characters. Defenders of the books argue that any sexual content is presented in the context of broader narratives that help teens understand and process the planet around them.

The fight has been particularly heated in Texas, where Republican state officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have gone so far as calling for criminal charges against any school employee who provides children with usage of novels, memoirs and sex ed books that some conservatives have called “pornography.”

Monica didn’t say in her talk show interview whether she had reported her concerns to the institution district. However in early January, Granbury’s schools superintendent, Jeremy Glenn, called a gathering with district librarians and shared that he’d began to get complaints about library books.

“Let’s call it what it really is, and I’m cutting to the chase on plenty of this,” Glenn told the librarians, in accordance with a secret recording of the meeting obtained by NBC News, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune and first reported in March. “It is the transgender, LGBTQ and the sex sexuality in books. That’s what the governor has said he will prosecute people for, and that is what we’re taking out.”

When asked about his comments, Glenn released a statement in March saying the district was focused on supporting students of most backgrounds. And even though he said the district’s primary focus is educating students, Glenn said “the values of our community will be reflected inside our schools.”

In the times following the meeting, district employees pulled a lot more than 130 books from school library shelves and announced the forming of a volunteer committee to examine them.

Monica was among the first residents appointed. Right away, she felt the procedure was a sham, she said in her Blue Shark interview. The initial two meetings were held sometimes when she couldn’t attend, she said, and by enough time she attained the 3rd meeting, the committee had already voted to come back the majority of the books to shelves.

“That meeting was completely disrupted in the sense that people didn’t vote at all because I kept asking questions,” she said.

Ultimately, over objections from her and something other member, the volunteer committee voted to ban only three books: “This Book Is Gay,” a coming-out guide for LGBTQ teens by transgender author Juno Dawson which includes detailed descriptions of sex; “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Prez, a adult novel in regards to a romance between a Mexican American girl and a Black boy which includes a rape scene along with other mature content; and “WE HAVE BEEN the Ants,” by Shaun David Hutchinson, a coming-of-age novel in regards to a gay teenager which includes explicit sexual language.

The district returned a large number of other titles to shelves. Many of the books had no sexual content, the committee found. For others, most committee members believed that any descriptions of sex were age-appropriate when read in complete context.

Monica was outraged, she said on the Blue Shark Show in early May.

“I believe they’re breaking regulations,” she said.

That same week, she put that belief to the test. ON, MAY 2, she and another disillusioned person in the book committee filed a police report with Hood County Constable Chad Jordan alleging that the district was making pornography open to students, in accordance with a copy of the incident report. Four days later, Hood County constables visited Granbury SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL to research the claim.

In a letter delivered to NBC News on Wednesday and dated Aug. 1, Jordan said his office cannot release more information concerning the case as the investigation remained active. In a statement issued in-may, Glenn, the Granbury superintendent, said the institution district was cooperating with police.

In the months since, Monica has continued to help keep the pressure on, speaking at every school board meeting, filing greater than a dozen additional book challenges and, along the way, learning to be a prominent and polarizing figure in Granbury.

Her activism has been praised by several leading conservative figures around, including members of the Hood County Republican Party and Melanie Graft, the institution board member who selected Monica to serve on the book review committee. Graft, who rose to local prominence in 2015 while leading a conservative campaign to remove LGBTQ-themed picture books from the children’s section at Granbury’s public library, didn’t react to messages requesting an interview.

Monica’s fight in addition has come at an individual cost. In social media marketing posts and public remarks, she’s said the hours spent reviewing library books have required her to sacrifice time with her family and resulted in a barrage of personal attacks from residents who oppose her efforts.

IN-MAY, Adrienne Martin, a Granbury parent and chair of the Hood County Democratic Party, was recording on her behalf phone as she confronted Monica outside a school board meeting.

“You wish to have librarians arrested,” Martin said as Monica walked away. “That’s fascism. You’re a fascist.”

At a board meeting last month, Monica tried to describe why she’s fought so difficult to eliminate books from the school district that her kids usually do not attend. She’s carrying it out, she said, for all your other children.

“Personally i think like it is a raging fire,” she told the board, “and I’ve got a water pistol.”

“I pray for you personally”

After Weston’s initial post criticizing his mother, he fired off several more tweets denouncing her efforts in Granbury.

It didn’t take a long time before the posts had reached his parents. His dad texted him to demand he apologize to his mother.

“We’ve not turn out contrary to the LGBT Community,” his father wrote, insisting that their efforts at Granbury schools were centered on “pornography” and nothing else. “I understand you’re hurt by our decisions but we have been also hurting and also have been since you said you’re Gay.

“We’ve not been hateful for you,” his father added.

Weston replied: “All I could say is I pity you and wish you the very best.”

Soon, opponents of Monica’s efforts began posting images of her son’s tweets on Granbury community Facebook groups creating a family’s private rift public.

“Call your son and leave ours alone!” a female wrote in reaction to among Monica’s many public posts about obscene library books.

“Your crusade against books won’t bring your son back or make him straight,” another Granbury resident wrote. “Go back home and appearance in the mirror, fix your home before you be worried about others.”

Monica never publicly addressed her son’s tweets, however in reaction to a Facebook post about them, she wrote: “It is possible to believe what you need about me. For the time being, I will keep on doing my far better finish out my entire life for an audience of 1.”

A month or more later, she finally got touching her son. Two days after NBC News contacted her to request an interview, she texted him to tell him that she didn’t intend to share “personal family details” with a reporter.

“I did so not turn out against LGBTQ at all ever,” she wrote, before adding: “I really like you, and I pray for you personally.”

Weston studied the message, thinking back again to all of the hours he’d spent pleading with her to simply accept him for who he could be rather than attempting to control and change him. It hurt, getting the woman who’d given birth to him simply tell him that his sexual orientation was an abomination.

He didn’t desire to revisit that trauma, he said. He just wanted his mom to avoid pushing her beliefs on other’s kids.

Weston re-read her text once more. He began to type an answer, then stopped. Instead he closed the message and set his phone aside.

He’d already told his mom precisely what would have to be said.

Disclosure: Facebook is a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that’s funded partly by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Look for a complete set of them here.


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This short article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/08/11/texas-library-book-ban-granbury/.

The Texas Tribune is really a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Find out more at texastribune.org.

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