Orange County school libraries, following in Brevard's footsteps, remove graphic novel 'Gender Queer' from shelves

click to enlarge Orange County school libraries, following in Brevard's footsteps, remove graphic novel 'Gender Queer' from shelves
Art via Maia Kobabe
A graphic novel that was recently pulled from library shelves in the Brevard County public school system has now been likewise removed from Orange County public school libraries.

The award-winning LGBTQ+ illustrated memoir Gender Queer, penned by Maia Kobabe — winner of the American Library Association's Alex Award and Stonewall Book Award in 2020 — became the subject of local controversy during an Orange County School Board meeting last week when a local parent likened it to "pornography" in a complaint about the book being available on the shelves.

As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Gender Queer, then on the shelves of four local public high schools, was pulled from these libraries following the meeting.

“Leadership determined it is not appropriate for the targeted age group and have removed it from circulation,” read a statement from Shari Bobinski, a school district spokesperson, obtained by the Sentinel.

The book in question, an autobiographical graphic novel, tells Kobabe's own story of learning to exist outside the gender binary. Trade publication School Library Journal, in a starred review, called the book "a great resource for those who identify as nonbinary or asexual as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wish to better understand."

And if you think this is simply a Florida phenomenon, a quick search reveals that there are similar fights over banning this book, published by Simon & Schuster, being kicked up in schools all over the country: Texas, Virginia, Ohio, Rhode Island and more.

Kobabe responded to critics in an op-ed published days ago in the Washington Post, making the argument that "queer kids need queer stories."

"Queer youth are often forced to look outside their own homes, and outside the education system, to find information on who they are," said Kobabe. "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."

A recent article on the American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom blog noted a 60 percent increase in book challenges this September, as compared to last September. And Gender Queer, unfortunately, is increasingly the subject of these complaints.

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