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Teen Refuses To Stay With Dad After Stepmom Bans Him From Reading Books With LGBTQ+ Characters

teenage boy seated on couch reading a book
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Censorship and book banning has been in the news a lot lately. The targeted materials usually feature LGBTQ+ or BIPOC characters.

While those behind these bans site concern for children, the obvious impetus is bigotry and insecurity. Dealing with such ignorance in schools and libraries is difficult, but facing such bigotry at home can be devastating.

A young man trying to reconnect with his estranged, absentee father found his efforts derailed by his father’s homophobic wife. Faced with a book ban fueled by her bigotry, the teen turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

Ganmedddie asked:

“AITA for telling my dad that if his wife censors what I read I won’t visit him anymore?”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“My (16, male) 40-ish dad’s parental rights were terminated due to abandonment. Didn’t pay child support and didn’t contact me for over a year, telling us he didn’t want me to see him at his worst (alcoholism).”

“He said he’s started going to start trying now, though. Already started going to alcohol rehab, so my mom started taking me to visit him during the weekends.”

“At first, it was going fine. A little bit awkward getting to know each other again.”

“Then my dad’s new wife and I had an argument.”

“On that day, mom had decided that I should spend the night at Dad’s place. I brought a book with me.”

“My dad’s wife (28) saw it and told me I should not read that book since the protagonist is bisexual and it pushes LGBT stuff (if it’s relevant, it’s book 2 of The Trials of Apollo series).”

“I told her she can’t dictate what I read since I’m not a kid and she’s not my mom, and Dad quickly jumped to her defense. He said she is still his wife, telling me I shouldn’t be rude to her in her home.”

“So I told him, ‘Fine. I’m not staying then’.”

“And I left and went home.”

“Mom said I don’t have to go back there if I don’t want to, so I told my dad when he called later on that if he doesn’t talk to his wife and tell her she can’t censor what I read, I won’t be returning.”

“He said what I said was threatening him.”

“The issue is that she didn’t say she doesn’t want it in her house. If she just said she didn’t want the book in her house, then I would have left without a word.”

“But what she said is that I shouldn’t read it.”

The OP provided an update after speaking to their father again.

“Just talked to my dad. He said that his wife was only trying to do what she thought was best for me and that the only issue is that what she thought is best is different from what I thought is best.”

“My dad said I should take that into consideration and also humor her by ‘giving up those books’ since she would become a new parental figure for me if I keep up the visits.”

“I asked if he expects me to do what she wants, including when I’m not at their house, and he sheepishly said yes. So I told him that I wouldn’t be visiting again. That way, I won’t have to deal with her.”

“Just to make it more clear, they don’t intend for it to be a rule at their house. They wanted me not to read the books even when I’m not at their place.”

The OP summed up their predicament.

“I think that I might be the a-hole for threatening my dad in that manner.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors decided the OP is definitely not the a**hole (NTA).

“NTA. She’s not your mom, and he lost his legal rights.”

“Don’t let him play the victim. This isn’t a threat as no harm will come to him regardless of the outcome.”

“His wife is displaying bigoted behavior; stick to your guns.”

“All she has to do is say nothing about your book. Should be easy enough.” ~ Active_Collar_8124

“NTA. He was on thin ice and took a hammer to it for his wife. He’s shown where his priorities lie, and they aren’t in a relationship with you.”

“The only reason his wife would know the LGBT themes is if she’d read the book or researched it. I’ve read the back cover on Goodreads, and it doesn’t even allude to LGBT. It’s more about hyping that old characters from the Percy Jacksonverse are coming back and reiterating the premise of the Trials of Apollo series.”

“He’s very presumptuous to think your relationship is strong enough with him to continue visits when he failed the trial run by throwing you under the bus to keep good with his wife.” ~ lemon_charlie

“[That book] is on a lot of religious zealot lists.”

“Riordan has won a couple of awards for his depictions of LGBTQ characters, so he’s pretty high on those lists. I used to enjoy buying them for my cousins to watch their parents grind their teeth.” ~ kithien

“I normally wouldn’t bring age into this, but your stepmom is closer in age to you than your absentee father, and you’re supposed to take her parenting seriously?”

“NTA—just because your father is desperate to cling to his homophobic wife doesn’t mean you have to play along. Their house, their rules, so you solved the problem she created by not going to her house.”

“Life’s full of choices, and your father made his. Now he can live with the consequences of his actions.” ~ LakotaGrl

“NTA—Your father abandoned you. Sounds like it’s time to reciprocate.”

“Your dad’s wife has absolutely no rights or say in this matter. Stay with Mom and enjoy your book.” ~ sunset-tx-armadillo

“You’re 16. If you were 11 and understood the vocabulary in the book, I’d say the same thing: It’s a book. No one has the right to put braces on your brain.”

“NTA. Some 16-year-olds go to college. So, yes. You most certainly are entitled to select your own leisure reading material.”

“Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, and Song of Solomon are typically required reading for high school sophomores. What on earth does your father’s wife think you should be reading? Dr. Seuss?” ~ AndSoItGoes24

“Stepmom is just one of those book banner types trying to push her beliefs on someone else that she has zero authority over. She needs to stay in her own lane.”

“Dad made a choice, and it wasn’t his flesh. It was his [wife], the kid is better off without him. NTA.” ~ Vampire-Chihuahua

“NTA. Come on! That’s not a threat; it’s a promise!”

“Apparently, he’s willing to let his wife make his parenting choices, and she’s choosing to be the evil stepmother. I hesitate to put it this way, but he’s abandoning you for the second time.”

“You never signed up to have a new and overly restrictive mother. You’re well justified to stand your ground.” ~ extinct_diplodocus

“NTA. You did nothing wrong. He has no parental rights, and she has less than none. This is literally like me trying to tell you what you can read.” ~ LowBalance4404

“NTA. Your dad completely blew it. What a ridiculous hill for him to die on.”

“Someone barely older than you trying to decide what books are appropriate? Laughable.” ~ bokatan778

“NTA She’s 28 years old and married to a 40-year-old alcoholic who abandoned his kid, and she disapproves of a book because there’s a bisexual character in it?”

“Both her and your father can go pound sand.” ~ ShamelessFox

“A 28yo who married a 40-year-old alcoholic and believes it makes her his 16-year-old kid’s parental figure—the kid whom he’d lost parental rights to due to abandonment—does not have the standing to tell anybody how to live their life.”

“As a matter of fact, she could use a lot of advice on judgment and good choices herself.” ~ S0baka

“NTA. Your father is choosing to nuke your relationship again over pandering to a homophobe. Inexcusable.” ~ BuendiaLabyrinth

“I could almost accept it if the books had graphic violence or sex (though my parents would never censor me at 16), but this is clearly just a homophobe being an a**hole.”

“I’d go no contact with the dad. A drunk and now a supporter of homophobia. Not seeing any reason for a relationship here.” ~ Vegetable-Wing6477

“Damn…dear old dad didn’t even TRY, did he?”

“Naw, NTA OP, you’re right. She can’t dictate what you can/can’t read, and if Dad thinks she can, you don’t need to visit him.”

“You gave Dad a chance, and he ROYALLY blew it.” ~ Reddit

“NTA bud. She clearly has a homophobia problem, but that’s not your problem.”

“I don’t think your response was rude at all. You are correct. She is in NO WAY your parent and has no right trying to dictate what you read.”

“I’m proud of you for reading, and I’m proud of you for setting your own boundaries, even though they feel complicated sometimes.” ~ whopeedonthefloor

“NTA. Your dad needs to recognize he isn’t a parent anymore, and even if he was, even a parent can’t dictate what a teen can read.”

“Nevermind some random lady dad married. She needs to be reminded what place she has in your life, as in nonexistent. Just like her authority.” ~ Vegitas_Fist

“Wait a minute… Your dad expects his wife, who you barely know, to be able to tell you what to do even when you’re not at his house? Is he the delusional one, or is she?

“NTA, stay far away from her! I have a feeling she’s just massively controlling, and now that you’re on her radar, everything you do is going to be under scrutiny, and she’s going to want to change it all. Just don’t go.” ~ Crystal_crone

Dad may be upset by the outcome, but Reddit had the OP’s back.

Life is full of choices, and Dad made his.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.