Yet Another Week In The Life Of Graphic Novel, Gender Queer

Two weeks-and-change ago, Bleeding Cool ran the article, A Week In The Life Of Banned Graphic Novel, Gender Queer. Last week we followed up with Another Week In The Life Of Graphic Novel, Gender Queer. Since then we had Banned Books Week which saw even more coverage of the graphic novel Gender Queer: A Graphic Memoir by Maia Kobabe as a new edition of Gender Queer is coming out from Oni Press.

Initially, Gender Queer was marketed toward older audiences, but 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 ordered by school libraries and public libraries in 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.

But there are many attempts across the country to get the book banned in one place or another. And news stories and coverage of these attempts keep rolling on.

Cover image for GENDER QUEER HC (MR)

Olivia Crouth at the Louisville Courier Journal in Kentucky reports that Gender Queer will "remain on the shelves at two public school libraries in Louisville after a district panel rejected a parent's challenge of the book. In meeting that took less than four minutes, a group of educators and parents with final say over library challenges in Jefferson County Public Schools unanimously voted Monday afternoon to keep "Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe at Liberty High School and the Phoenix School of Discovery. In doing so, they sided with multiple school principals and the district's head of media services in arguing the book's literary value and impact on LGBTQ students override a handful of scenes involving nudity and sex." They also quote Miranda Stovall, who filed the complaint saying "My biggest concern is that this sets the precedent of JCPS not caring what parents think about what their children have access to, and this issue is going to snowball as it already has". But also that "Two remaining disputes to remove the memoir from Atherton and Central are still in the appeals process."

WLKY published details of the report:

"Gender Queer illustrates a lived experience that is not often represented in literature, especially in literature geared towards young adult or high school-aged students. Its inclusion in the libraries at Phoenix and Liberty serves a valuable educational purpose in the schools' efforts to educate the whole student… While reasonable people may differ as to what is offensive, this Board feels the few sexual passages in this material do not rise to the level that the average person, applying contemporary adult community standards, would find to be patently offensive."

Robin Abcarian of the LA Times recommends that people actually read the book,

It's not just confused young people who might benefit from reading "Gender Queer." It really should be required reading for grown-ups in places such as Texas and Florida, where cynical activists are using LGBTQ kids as fodder for their reactionary political agendas. Anyone clinging to the absurdly outmoded view that there are only two genders and nothing in between would benefit immensely from this book.

The New Hampshire Bulletin reports Milford High School, which had the book Gender Queer removed, then returned last year has kids making an art project, "in front of the school's library this week is an art installation with 11 lockers painted to resemble the spines of 11 commonly challenged books, from "The Catcher in the Rye" to "Maus," the graphic novel about the Holocaust.  Across the hall, a display inside the library shows off a number of young adult books that have been targeted throughout the nation in recent years, many centered on teenagers grappling with race, identity, and sexuality…. This year, the book earned a spot on the school's banned books mural. A poster reads: "Gender Queer: #1 challenged book of 2021.""

ABC4 News reports that an English studies coordinator and professor at Syracuse University in New York doesn't understand why so many parents are up in arms over the book "Gender Queer" being made available to their children. And that "Katherine Kidd doesn't shy away from challenging texts," The Daily Orange, Syracuse's campus paper, wrote of the professor. "Kidd didn't see why 'Gender Queer,' which is by Maia Kobabe and was most challenged book of the last year, was as scandalous as the public perceived it to be."

Entertainment Weekly reports that "Tamron Hall was accused of having a "slant" to her questioning during a live talk show interview with two moms who support banning writer Maia Kobabe's book Gender Queer: A Memoir from school libraries. Thursday's episode of The Tamron Hall Show saw the Emmy-winning host engaging in a heated discussion with Tiffany Justice and Pamela Macek, who advocated for public institutions to remove Kobabe's illustration-based novel about gender identity from American schools. Hall referenced Justice's alleged support for Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis — a proponent of the state's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill that limited educational conversations around sexual orientation and gender identity — noting that Justice's political stance indicated she wasn't advocating for the rights of all parents, "but parents who are like you."

The Santa Barbara Independent of California reported "Parents and children walking to Monte Vista Elementary School last Friday were wearing green for School Pride Day when they were confronted by three people shoving a flyer into the parents' hands. It charged that eight Democrats running for office were in agreement with what the flyer called Santa Barbara Unified's "child porn in public schools."" And that Principal Hans Rheinschild and Hope School District superintendent, Anne Hubbard calledthe police."When Hubbard got there, she explained to them that Monte Vista was not in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, nor was it involved with the high school's sex education." The paper also reports "The problem here is that the flyer was highly inaccurate: The book is not a textbook. It is in the Santa Barbara High School library, clear across town from Monte Vista and the Hope School District. And it was selected by accredited school staff; not one of the candidates listed had anything to do with it."

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune of Florida reports from the Sarasota School Board. "During a meeting that saw several federal grants accepted and the approval of a new learning management system, public comments and debate among board members over LGBTQ+ and other cultural issues again overshadowed the agenda. Prior to Tuesday's meeting, the district removed a flyer at Laurel Nokomis School promoting an LGBTQ+ student event called QueerCon, which took place Saturday. School Board member Bridget Ziegler then shared an image of the flyer on social media, saying it was inappropriate. The next day, Ziegler's husband Christian, a county commissioner, posted criticism of the county government's social media for promoting Banned Book Week and an LGBTQ+ book called "Gender Queer.""

And that "On Sunday, the county shared a post on Facebook promoting Banned Books Week at the library… The No. 1 challenged book, "Gender Queer," is a coming-of-age memoir of an adolescent's journey with gender identity. The county edited the post hours later to remove the link to the list. Christian Ziegler, a county commissioner and husband of School Board member Bridget Ziegler, took to Facebook to criticize the original post.  "This is insane, totally inappropriate, and I cannot imagine our county staff EVER considering, let alone posting, a recommendation for this type of material," he wrote in the post.""

The Portland Press Herald of Oregon reports that the Bonny Eagle SAD6 school board has delayed its decision on whether to ban Gender Queer from their high school library in Dixfield, and will spend two weeks actually reading the book. And that "Bonny Eagle schools Superintendent Clay Gleason told board members that he would make copies of "Gender Queer" available for each to read, with a decision on whether to allow the book scheduled for the board's next meeting on Oct. 3."

News Center Maine reports that the MSAD6 in Maine has been hearing arguments about keeping the sole copy of Gender Queer in one of their high school libraries.

The Courier-Gazette of Waldoboro, reports similar for the regional school board of the Medomak Valley High School library, with the RSU 40 Board meeting on the 20th of October to decide whether or not to ban Gender Queer. And that Superintendent Steve Nolan "said he followed the district's policy when a book is challenged. He appointed a committee that reviewed the book and made a report to him which led him to decide to keep the book in the library. A Waldoboro resident, who is not a parent of a student in the district, appealed that decision in June… The superintendent said that the next step is for the Board to review the book. Copies were ordered but the original vendor was not able to fill the order and a different vendor was able to get copies to the district Thursday." Basically, Gender Queer has been selling out!

The writer and artist of Gender Queer, Maia Kobabe talked to USA Today about eir experiences with the book of late and why it has been targeted so. "I think the fact that it is a graphic novel is a big part of it. The fact that it's an illustrated book makes it more vulnerable to book challenges. It's very easy for someone to quickly flip through the book and find two or three pages they might disagree with without having to sit down and read the whole thing. I do think another factor is that it won a couple of awards from the American Library Association in 2020. It won an Alex Award and also a Stonewall Book Award, and many librarians purchase ALA award winners. It was just sort of well-placed in many public libraries and school libraries because the librarians had supported it."

And e talked about what such a book would have meant to em if at had been available when e was a teenager. "It would have been huge. I was searching everywhere for every tiny scrap of queer narrative I could find. At the most, I usually found stories where a trans or nonbinary character was a very small side character. I don't remember any books where the trans or nonbinary character was the lead and it was really about their story and about their journey. I think if I'd had a book like this, it could have taken 10 years off of my questioning and confusion and uncertainty about who I was and how I was going to fit into the world."

However e doesn't take it personally. "I absolutely see it as part of a widescale political attack. I actually don't take almost any of it personally, certainly because of how often people who complain about my book openly state that they have not read it. I see it as part of the organized effort to erase trans, queer and nonbinary voices from the public sphere. I see it as part of the movement of different states limiting access to trans health care and trans students' rights to be involved in activities, from sports to clubs to journalism. I see it along the lines of the Don't Say Gay bill in Florida. It all feels like many parts of this really damaging and upsetting and worrying effort to make it harder and harder for trans and nonbinary people to exist in public."

Interior preview page from Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition
Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition Preview Image
Interior preview page from Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition
Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition Preview Image
Interior preview page from Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition
Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition Preview Image
Interior preview page from Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition
Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition Preview Image
Interior preview page from Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition
Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition Preview Image

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About 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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