Parents object to “pornographic” graphic novel available in Wissahickon High School library

During an October 25th meeting of the Wissahickon School Board, three parents objected to the graphic novel Gender Queer being available in the Wissahickon High School library. Note that the term “graphic” in “graphic novel” is used to describe the type of book (basically a more extensive comic) not the content.

Simon & Schuster, the publisher of the graphic novel, lists the book as appropriate for grades 10 and up, and describes it as follows:

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.

Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

The three parents didn’t object to the purpose of the book, but to the content (in words and in imagery) within the book they described as pornographic.

Below is a panel from the graphic novel.

One parent, Stephen Coleman, shared that his 14-year-old daughter had been encouraged to learn more about the LGBT experience and read a portion of Gender Queer. The content and images within the graphic novel left her feeling mortified, embarrassed, and disturbed. According to Coleman, his daughter approached a librarian with concerns about the book and was left to feel shamed and was told that pornography is in the eye of the beholder.

Coleman went on to make the point that if a man was handing out images from the graphic novel to kids that he would be arrested.

After public comment, Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield was asked by School Board Member Paul Badger about the issue. Dr. Crisfield explained that any book in the library or classroom can be objected to. When this happens there is a five-day review and the book normally remains available. However, in this case, the book was pulled during the review.

The below video is cued to start with the objections about the graphic novel.