BALLSTON SPA — The Ballston Spa Central School District’s school board is expected to vote Wednesday to keep the book “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe in its high school library after someone requested several reviews of the memoir.
The book has become controversial across the nation. The book, which was published in 2019, is a graphic memoir that explores gender identity through Kobabe’s journey of coming out.
The book “has been banned from shelves in more states than any other book,” stated a January NPR interview with the author.
But the resolution the school board is set to vote on states that it finds no reason to remover the book. That doesn’t mean everyone agrees.
Community member Jason Gurtler posted to the All Things Ballston Spa Facebook group that the book was “soliciting pornography to minors.”
The post led to a conversation about at what age it’s appropriate to discuss sexual desires.
“I assume, then, that allowing for the teaching of sexual desire and orientation and exploration is something that you feel is necessary to be taught/made available in a school library?” Gurtler asked in a comment to Sophie Flinton, who had also posted her opinion on the matter.
“Why not have a school assembly with a live demonstration?” Gurtler further asked.
Flinton had said the book isn’t pornography or even meant to appeal to someone’s sexual desires. “There is a line for HS (high school) literature for education and then there’s adult erotica, romance, and a hole [SIC] slew of really great stimulating books. But the fact is this isn’t the stuff in the back room of the bookstore.”
She said sex education doesn’t necessarily dive into some of the experiences young adults have and that there are parents who “won’t help with being OK with these new feelings of sexuality.”
Other commenters like Joe Shaver also questioned how far banning books will go.
“Libraries are for the individual. No librarian ever forces anyone to read something, in fact they love finding books that are perfect and appropriate for the individual,” he said.
According to the Board of Education resolution the book was reviewed by a review committee, which found no reason for removing the book. Upon appeal, the superintendent also found no issue with keeping the book in the library, so the person appealed to the Board of Education. They found no issue either, according to the resolution.
“The Board of Education determines that the book provides informative messages on a variety of topics that could be beneficial to all readers,” the resolution states. “The Board of Education finds that the themes present in the book provide a unique viewpoint that enhances the overall library offerings for students. The Board of Education asserts the importance of considering the book as a whole and understanding each image and phrase in context.”
In the NPR interview, Kobabe said criticism of the book really came in 2021. However, she said that if the book had been written by any other author she believes it would have been more graphic.
“I drew as much as I felt like I needed to tell the story that I was trying to tell and get the points across that I was trying to make,” Kobabe said.
Parents in districts across the nation have been criticizing various books, many with LGBTQ themes, at a time when lawmakers nationwide have argued to limit or ban gender-affirming care and drag shows or raised issues surrounding LGBTQ groups.
Recently, the Rockwell Fall Public Library in Lake Luzerne canceled a drag queen story hour featuring an Albany-based performer following outrage from community members.
Many parents who have criticized books such as “Gender Queer” have indicated their desire to limit sexual content in schools, not because it deals with the LGBTQ community.
The Board of Education will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Ballston Spa High School library.