Statement of Support for Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

CBLDF issued a statement this week in support of Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe after the graphic novel received challenges in several public school systems in multiple states, including Virginia, New Jersey, and Florida. This statement supports the right of parents to choose what material is appropriate for their children but draws the line at allowing those voices to censor the material from other students who will benefit from the work.

Gender Queer is an award-winning work that “examines nonbinary gender identity in a way that benefits both those who identify as nonbinary and those who wish to better understand nonbinary identity.” Given the visual nature of the comics medium, Gender Queer has been challenged with out-of-context images and false assertions. We urge all school boards to follow their established review policies with rigor.

CBLDF is here to help everyone (individuals in a community or school, the school boards) with advice, assistance, legal referrals, representation, and education in furtherance of these goals. You can contact our team here.

Read the full statement in support of Gender Queer below.

Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer is a Stonewall Award honoree and received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, which is given to books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults. This nuanced memoir examines nonbinary gender identity in a way that benefits both those who identify as nonbinary and those who wish to better understand nonbinary identity. 

Given their visual nature, comics are uniquely susceptible to challenges. In the case of Gender Queer, challengers have taken a scant handful of out-of-context images to falsely assert that the graphic novel is pornographic and obscene. Several school boards have subsequently decided to remove the graphic novel, often without following established challenge and materials review policies. Based on legal precedent, school boards have some leeway in removing materials, but they cannot do so simply because they don’t like the material or without following established procedures.

While some may find the content objectionable, as is their right, there are undoubtedly students and parents in the school system who support and want access to Gender Queer. Public schools and libraries have an obligation to support intellectual freedom and to meet the needs and interests of their entire community, including those who would like to read Gender Queer. Parents can exercise the right to make decisions for their own children, but when they demand the removal of materials, they take that right away from others. Removing books such as Gender Queer based on the demands of the few violates the First Amendment rights of students, parents, and others in the community.