(NEW YORK)— PEN America today sharply criticized a decision by the Greenville County S.C. libraries to move books featuring transgender children to the adult parenting section of the library. The writers and free expression group said the restriction “exemplifies the slippery slope of censorship” targeting books about LGBTQ themes and ideas.

The decision, which also affects books that “[affirm] pronouns or dressing inconsistent with biological sex,” will prevent minors from checking them out without parental permission. The board rejected a formal challenge to the book Melissa by Alex Gino about a young transgender girl but voted unanimously to move Melissa and about 20 other books to the adult section.

Melissa was banned in Greenville County elementary schools last year.

Kasey Meehan, Freedom to Read program director at PEN America, said the board should reverse its decision, which she said was based on “viewpoint discrimination” and noted that book banners have long argued that books are not banned just because they aren’t available in schools.

“But now, Melissa and books like it are being restricted in the public library, too – exemplifying the slippery slope of censorship as book bans—overwhelmingly those about  LGBTQ+ identities—spread from schools to public libraries. We call on the board to reverse the decision and urge them to remember that libraries are for everyone, and the First Amendment is non-negotiable.”

The restrictions reflect a statewide effort to remove certain types of books from student access. In August 2023, South Carolina Superintendent Ellen Weaver cut ties with the South Carolina Association of School Librarians and in February passed a resolution giving the state control over book reconsideration decisions.The decision by Greenville Public Library also aligns with similar efforts to restrict books inclusive of trans and LGBTQ+ identities in other public libraries, including in York County, SC.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057