A controversial book that caused firestorms of parental anger upon being found in the libraries of public schools from Virginia to Rhode Island, showing graphic sexual imagery about the sexual and gender identity awakening of teenagers, is being defended by the mainstream press and publishers.
The book, Gender Queer: A Memoir, a graphic novel by author Maia Kobabe, has become something of a symbol of what's at stake in the educational culture wars both in the Virginia gubernatorial election and beyond.
Published by Simon and Schuster, the book has won numerous awards. The book was called into question by Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, and was pulled from school libraries in Fairfax County, Virginia. Yet Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe slammed Youngkin for wanting books like this out of school libraries.
The images in the book have angered parents up and down the eastern seaboard, notably one mom in Rhode Island, who posted not only explicit images from the book, but correspondence she had with the school wherein administrators upheld the validity of providing this work to high school students.
When images from the Gender Queer were posted to Instagram and Facebook, they were removed by the site.
Yet they are fully acceptable in the libraries of public schools.
Author Kobabe, who goes by the obscure pronouns "e/em/eir", defended the book in the Washington Post, saying that "queer kids need queer stories." Kobabe wrote about how unpleasant it was to hear the book slammed by parents at school board meetings and defamed online. The publisher spoke out in favor of the book.
And others came to its defense, saying they hope the ban on the book in some schools is "temporary."
Others said that the removal of the book from school libraries is "nonsensical."
Executive Director Executive editor at Dutton Books for Young Readers Andrew Karre also swooped in to defend Kobabe.
Kobabe wrote in the defensive op-ed that "One of the charges thrown against the book was that it promoted pedophilia — based on a single panel depicting an erotic ancient Greek vase. Others simply called it pornography, a common accusation against work with themes of queer sexuality."
It was the graphic sexual content depicting oral sex, not Greek vases, that had angered parents. Kobabe said the book was written for "High school and above," though the author went on to say that mostly it was a way of explaining "eir" nonbinariness to "eir" parents and family.
A parent read from the book at an Orange County School Board meeting in Florida in late October.
Instead of understanding the concerns of parents at the graphic sexual content and the apparent encouragement into a gender-alternative lifestyle and identity, Kobabe recounts "eir" own difficulties finding work that represented "eir" voice and interests when "e" was a young person, noting that were it not for books like hers, kids would have to find out who they are on the internet and they "might not yet even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies and health."
Kobabe's column in the Washington Post featured much more tame imagery than those that concerned parents. The book is held up as an example of literature that is available for queer teens to find commonality in the broader world with their own feelings.
Many adults on Twitter said that they enjoyed the book and it gave them broader insight into the feelings of those in the nonbinary community, and it's a read that seems better suited to an adult audience than a high school one.
There is a distinct difference between the way that Kobabe's book has been treated versus the books of others who speak out about LGBTQ+ issues. When JK Rowling, author of the famed Harry Potter series, spoke her mind on gender critical issues, mainstream media shamed and defamed her. Kobabe is being defended for her book portraying teens engaging in graphic sexual acts, while Rowling was threatened for expressing her views on the legitimacy of biological sex.