Conservative Teacher Condemned Over Gender Queer, not Why You Think

Bleeding Cool has been running many articles about recent news coverage about the graphic novel Gender Queer: A Graphic Memoir by Maia Kobabe as a new edition comes out from Oni Press. The Cowboy State Daily reports that a meeting of the Natrona County School Board in Casper, Wyoming, saw police step in after a substitute teacher was called a paedophile. This occurred after the panel's decision last month to keep the graphic novel Gender Queer and then the novel Trans Bodies, Trans Selves in the Kelly Walsh High School library, which generally serves students aged 14-18. Stephen Delger, a substitute teacher for the school district and a self-described conservative, told the board that he read Gender Queer and didn't know why people are calling it pornographic. He was quoted as saying "I've seen pornography, I'm ashamed to say, when I was a young man. I know what it is, and this isn't it" and that trying to ban the book would only "marginalize students that are questioning", warning of the danger of banning books and the slippery slope it brings.

At this point, Eric Paulson, a candidate for Casper City Council, reportedly accused Stephen Delger of being a paedophile. The site quotes him as saying "That's who is advocating for (keeping the books), People who think 13, and 12 and other minor children are 'discovering themselves.' You literally just had a paedophile come and talk to you who told us he's a substitute teacher. He openly told you he wants young children discovering who they are right now."

A police officer attending the meeting was then asked to intervene, for Paulson to be removed from the microphone, leaving Paulson to reply to Delger, with "OK, groomer."

The meeting also saw 18-year-old high school senior Kelby Eisenman quoted as saying he was "exhausted by the trivialness of the conversation over books; two novels that have not been checked out over 30 times in the recorded past", while Renea Redding, a candidate for the Natrona County School Board, who was against the books' inclusion, nevertheless stated that Trans Bodies, Trans Selves has been checked out so few times, "it shouldn't still be in the library under the library's policy of discarding unpopular books."

Cover image for Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition
Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition Preview Image

Initially marketed toward older audiences, winning an American Library Association Award in 2020 for "books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18" saw copies of Gender Queer ordered by school libraries and public libraries across the USA, while political campaigns have found it an easy touch for "what about the children" style rabble-rousing. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's current Interim Director, Jeff Trexler stated that challenges to this comic had become a hot talking point in local politics and were being weaponised for political gain. He told ICV2; "I mentioned the parent in Virginia who went viral after talking about this. Then, that became the heart of the Youngkin campaign. One could say that the protest of Gender Queer became the hub or the foundation of a movement that ended up getting the Republican Governor of Virginia elected". Since then, obscenity lawsuits against Oni Press and Maia Kobabe have been filed by lawyer Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of himself and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman citing an obscure state obscenity law, though were recently dismissed.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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