Students in Downers Grove, Ill. Rally to defend controversial LGBTQ book as school board hears objections over content
Some attendees held up signs saying “No porn” and posters showing graphic illustrations from coming-of-age memoir on gender and sexuality, while several students and parents spoke out in defense of the book, saying it ‘it should be available in the library. and that no one was obliged to read it.
Downers Grove student Josiah Poynter, 18, said the book should be included in the school library because inclusion is important to young people. “Inclusion provides an opportunity to grow up in a safe environment and brings comfort to people who feel unloved and rejected,” he said at the Community High School District 99 board meeting.
Poynter said that while the book may raise questions that aren’t always comfortable, it’s important to understand the experiences of the LGBTQ community.
He added that the students were given books like “Montana 1948,” which includes graphic rape scenes.
Junior Julia Hanson said that while parts of “Gender Queer” were uncomfortable to read, she expected it. “Nothing in this book was new to me,” she said.
“We have already been completely stripped of our innocence and a copy of the book in our library does not change that,” Hanson said.
“After all, most kids have never borrowed a book from our library,” she added to some of the attendees laughing.
Lauren Pierret, a 17-year-old, said she only knew about the book last week.
“It is not imposed on your children, but it gives children who would be interested in this story the choice to read it,” said Pierret. She also referred to other books in the library like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Angela’s Ashes” which include sex scenes but don’t face the same criticism in the neighborhood.
“Why aren’t these books censored? She asked. “Let’s not present getting rid of ‘Gender Queer’ as sexual censorship of our children. It’s homophobia.”
Jim Devlin, a resident who requested the book’s removal, said the images in the book were not for educational purposes. “It’s outright pornography. And it has no place in our schools,” he said.
Resident Terry Newsome said the book was a totally unacceptable “child pornography sketchbook”.
“What you do to our children in the name of politics is criminal,” he said, calling for more focus on resources for children’s education, including reading, writing and math. .
Prior to public comments on “Gender Queer,” District Superintendent Hank Thiele said it meets the criteria for inclusion in the library. “This is an optional book and is not part of any compulsory course or reading,” he said in a statement.
As for objections, Thiele told CNN the book will remain in circulation “while we work through the process to determine if the title should remain in our libraries.”
Last month, “Gender Queer” was honored by a Republican lawmaker in Texas who asked the state attorney general to investigate a list of LGBTQ books in schools to determine whether the books give students access to pornography.
Responding to the censorship of some LGBTQ books, Kobabe told CNN, “I hope this will really galvanize the librarians, parents and students who are against censorship.”
Kobabe also expressed his gratitude to high school students who attend board meetings to support the book and become politically active.
Some school districts in Texas, such as the Canutillo Independent School District, have temporarily removed the book from school libraries while the book is under review.