Editorial: The necessity of ‘Gender Queer’

With Maia Kobabe’s memoir, Gender Queer, pulled from library shelves, Lakewood’s inclusive environment is put at risk.

Gender Queer is a magnificent memoir following author Maia Kobabe’s path to self-acceptance. It has helped countless transgender and nonbinary youth in finding their identity. However, the recent removal of Gender Queer from Pinellas County School libraries dismantles the inclusive community that the book’s presence built.

Gender Queer is about Kobabe’s struggles to articulate identity. Kobabe wasn’t always exposed to information needed to label one’s identity. Phrases such as nonbinary and asexual were something Kobabe had yet to discover. After years of self-discovery, Kobabe now uses the pronouns e/em/eir. Kobabe facilitates this road of discovery to the reader in sharing this story and directs the reader to other works, such as Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain by Patricia S. Churchland, which helps to broaden the information available to youths.

In Gender Queer, Kobabe touches on topics such as sexuality and gender identity that would never be included in a sex education class. Kobabe’s graphic novel style used to portray themes of asexuality and gender identity is able to connect far beyond what a sex education teacher can with their student. What the book teaches is incredibly important, but sadly otherwise absent in our schools. Where the education system fails, this book succeeds.

The value this book holds to LGBTQ+ youth is irreplaceable. Lakewood has a large LGBTQ+ community and Gender Queer can be a helpful resource for them. In a culture that is largely heteronormative, reading about someone with similar experiences can be monumental for these students. A small amount of representation can have a massive impact on youth self-esteem.

Kobabe’s memoir is an important read not only to LGBTQ+ youth, but to everyone. You don’t need to be queer to follow Kobabe’s story. With this book, a non-queer audience could develop understanding and inclusivity in areas where Lakewood lacks it. Every student at Lakewood could benefit from reading Gender Queer, but unfortunately, they can no longer access it from Lakewood’s library. The lessons of this book are something this school is in dire need of. It’s a tragedy that such a unique resource was stripped from students.

The effective ban of Gender Queer in Pinellas County School libraries diminishes the efforts of encouraged diversity and inclusivity Lakewood established. Lakewood’s media center, well known for its initiatives such as the Gay-Straight Alliance, has always been welcoming and inclusive to all students. However, the recent censorship signifies to LGBTQ+ students that their identity is something to be ashamed of. The district’s actions result in an unhealthy learning environment.

In order for every Lakewood student to feel that they belong, the attack on LGBTQ+ education must end.