High school students clapped back at parents who wanted to ban an LGBTQ book from the school library, which they said “teaches kids how to be gay.”
Parents and other area residents showed up at a Community High School District 99 school board meeting in suburban Chicago on Monday night, holding signs that said “NO PORN” and attacking one specific book that had been approved for school libraries in the district: Gender Queer, an autobiographical graphic novel by Maia Kobabe.
The protestors – many who came because the white nationalist and anti-LGBTQ Proud Boys promoted the meeting on social media – said that the book is “pornographic” and “homoerotic” because a few pages in the book discuss and depict sexual interactions. The book, which is not required reading in the district, is not pornography since it is not intended to cause sexual excitement.
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But that didn’t stop protestors from making wild claims about it. Parent Terry Newsome said at the meeting that the book is “liberal code for teaching children how to perform oral sex, anal sex, wear strap-on dildos.”
“It’s not your right to decide if our minor children should have access to pornography,” he said about the memoirs of the asexual, non-binary author, a book that explains ideas around gender and sexual identity.
Another father who was not named told the Chicago Sun-Times that the book made him “sick.” He hadn’t read it, he had just watched a YouTube video about it.
But students weren’t having it.
“Let’s not present getting rid of Gender Queer as censoring our children from sex,” senior Lauren Pierret said. “It’s homophobia.”
She said that The Handmaid’s Tale and other books with sex scenes are in the school library and no one is protesting those.
Pierret explained that she hadn’t even heard of the book until last week when she became aware of the controversy but said that it should be available because “it gives kids who would be interested in this story a choice to read it.”
“Inclusion matters to young people,” said senior Josiah Poynter. “This is why we must have this book in our school’s library… It brings comfort to people who feel unsolved and cast out.”
Junior Tabitha Irvin called it “ironic” that the protestors were wearing American flag clothes and masks while calling for a book to be banned, saying that the issue was about free speech.
An alumna of the district, Linda Schranz, told the school board that “despite the noise in the community,” it’s just a “small minority” who want to ban the book. She explained that Gender Queer is “an opportunity for a child who may be exploring or questioning [their identity] to take a look and look at more information.”
The school board didn’t plan on debating the book at the meeting; the protestors brought it up during the public comment part of the meeting. They took no action other than to say that two formal complaints have been filed against it and that administrators will review it again.
Superintendent Hank Thiele said that the book met the district’s requirements to be in the library. The American Library Association has said that the book has “special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”
But the book is getting protested in districts around the country. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) ordered a crackdown on school libraries just because of this book, which he said met the “statutory definition of obscenity.”
Last month, the Keller school district in Texas got complaints from several parents about Kobabe’s book and removed it.
“Welcome to Keller ISD,” wrote parent Kathy May in a tweet on the book. “Yes, a Texas School. Where legitimate visual porn, a felony offense, is in one of our libraries. They were quick to find the book and pulled it from a students hands, realizing the severity of distributing porn.”
May blamed “leftist teachers, librarians, and counselors,” even though those same professionals immediately removed the book from the school when she complained about it.
Kobabe responded to the criticism in a Washington Post op-ed as the book has angered conservative parents across the country.
“Queer youth are often forced to look outside their own homes, and outside the education system, to find information on who they are,” e wrote. “Removing or restricting queer books in libraries and schools is like cutting a lifeline for queer youth, who might not yet even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies, and health.”