A recent Los Angeles Times report portrayed the author of a controversial LGBTQ book found in public school libraries as a victim of “false outrage” and “censorship” generated by Christian conservatives.
The report, written by LA Times staff writer Jeffrey Fleishman, claimed that “Gender Queer” author Maia Kobabe was “tugged into” the culture wars by the right wing “crusade” against her book.
“Gender Queer,” a “graphic memoir” – as Fleishman described it – containing illustrations of “sexual acts between a boy and a man” and other “obscene” material, has courted major controversy among America’s parents for being in public school libraries throughout the U.S.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, R., Fleishman noted, has referred to the book as “pornographic.” In a letter he also said it was “likely illegal under South Carolina law.”
Fleishman began by characterizing Kobabe’s work as an “insightful and moving coming of age discovery of identifying as nonbinary (using the pronouns e, em and heir).”
“Two years after its publication, the narrative, notable for its startling honesty and explicit drawings, became the most banned book in America, a target of school boards, conservative candidates, preachers and parental groups who condemned it as pornography aimed at impressionable children,” Fleishman wrote.
“Supported by librarians and vilified by Moms for Liberty, Kobabe was tugged from the writing life into the nation’s cultural wars,” Fleishman added.
The journalist mentioned how Kobabe has spoken up against this backlash, which the author referred to as “censorship.” Fleishman noted the author has “written opinion pieces and spoken out against the banning of “Gender Queer” in at least 49 school districts in Florida, Texas, Michigan, Utah and other states.
The book has caused a stir in schools across the country. Public school officials like Loudoun County School Board in Virginia vice chair Ian Serotkin have voted to remove the book from their school libraries following parental backlash, Fox News Digital has reported.
“The sexually explicit illustrations which have gotten significant media and public attention may only appear on a handful of pages, but sexual themes are pervasive throughout the book,” Serotkin said as he described his decision to remove the book to Fox News. “And, the sexually explicit illustrations themselves cannot be ignored. I think I can draw a line between something being described in writing and it being depicted in living color.”
Fairfax County mother Stacey Langton described the book as “outrageously offensive.” Although, unlike LCPS, Fairfax County Public Schools voted to reinstate the book into school libraries after two committees ruled that they do not contain pedophilia or obscene material.
“There’s this dichotomy of a renaissance of art and a backlash of legislation,” Kobabe told the LA Times. “I feel at the crossroads of hope and despair.”
Fleishman characterized the parent backlash as a “crusade against ‘Gender Queer’” that has put her in the same camp as authors such as Mark Twain.
“It has also landed Kobabe in the company of Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and Mark Twain, authors whose canonical works on race, gender and free expression have been on and off banned lists for decades,” Fleishman stated.
Fleishman acknowledged that the book features scenes of “masturbation, an oral sex encounter and an erotic image of a man and boy illustrated on an ancient Greek urn,” and noted they “have been considered too graphic by many school boards and parents who are alarmed that children are increasingly questioning their gender and sexual orientation. In the states Kobabe’s book was challenged, it was mainly stocked in high school and public libraries.”
Fleishman quoted one Louisiana librarian’s defense of Kobabe’s work against the conservative crusade.
“But it’s false outrage,” she said. “They’re targeting LGBTQ and other marginalized communities. My school is 96% white. How else are these students going to become empathetic humans? They have to know about other races and identities.”
He also reported that Kobabe claims her work is “mainly intended for teenagers and young adults” and described her as a “role model” who highlights “gender and diversity” in opinion pieces and on radio and podcast interviews.