The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion This GOP-targeted book is not the problem. Ignorance and fear are.

Rainbow flags are seen during New York Pride Parade. (iStock)
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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) have demanded investigations into “pornographic” books found in their public schools, and both have at least one particular publication in mind.

So, too, school systems in Washington state and Fairfax County, Va., which have pulled the book from library shelves. That still didn’t stop one enraged Washington state parent from asking that school officials be criminally prosecuted for stocking a book that he called “graphic pornography to include pedophilia.”

The book in question, Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” has managed to get a noticeable segment of America up in arms.

I saw Kobabe’s Oct. 29 Post op-ed about the book, but admit I never got around to reading it. Now, with all the snarling and gnashing of teeth, what else to do, but learn what the fuss is all about?

Thus, I purchased “Gender Queer” the other day and settled in to learn why banning the book from public school libraries ranks so high on some folks’ agenda.

The eBook version was a quick read. So fast and easy that I when I reached page 239 and the end of the illustrated story, my reaction was: “Is that all there is?”

The brevity, however, made sense. The autobiographical journey, published in 2019, ends at the point where 28-year-old Kobabe is teaching a comics workshop to junior high kids in fall 2017. How much more of Kobabe’s life was there to tell?

But it was enough. Enough for this octogenarian to get a firsthand lesson and deeper understanding of the journey to gender identity, and the confusing, sometimes painful, steps taken by people coming to terms with who they are.

School libraries? I have the best interests of my seven grandchildren, ranging in age from 13 and older, at heart. When it comes to them, their parents’ desires outweigh mine. But I have no problem with my teenage grandkids having access to “Gender Queer.” This book delving into sexual orientation also should be available for parents who need insight and information into the world in which their children now live.

This memoir may, as Kobabe intends, help children struggling with gender identity to feel less alone.

But Kobabe’s book is not just for the benefit of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. Or high-schoolers working through trans and nonbinary identities. It’s also for so-called enlightened folks such as myself who once had no clear idea what people discussing transgender and nonbinary issues were even talking about. A point Kobabe also noted in her Post op-ed.

“Gender Queer,” a fully illustrated book, does have explicit images. But are the drawings more unambiguous than those available on the Internet or in music videos?

Frankly, it’s a little hard to listen to the “Gender Queer” critics and not conclude they somehow fear that lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism and nonbinarism are communicable diseases from which their children should be protected. By the cramped reckoning of some, reading seems to be a feared means of transmission.

If they thought becoming part of the LGBTQ community could be prevented by the wearing of masks, would they demand mandates for every school and public space in the nation?

LGBTQ book banners and burners, let not your hearts be troubled.

Sexual orientation isn’t caused by the way in which your child is reared or by what your child learns or doesn’t learn in school.

Sexual orientation is simply not a conscious choice, according to the American Psychological Association.

How people come to terms with their sexual orientation, however, can make a difference, and that includes how children are taught to feel about their sexuality. Banning books such as “Gender Queer” from school libraries only hurts young people needing to affirm their gender or orientation, whatever they may be.

So put away those matches and crack open a book on the topic. You may be surprised how much better that will make you, your children and your community feel. And maybe how you behave toward each other.

“Gender Queer” is not your or your child’s problem. How about ignorance and fear?

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