Asexual Representation- The Most Banned Book, Gender Queer: A Memoir
The most challenged book in the U.S. was written by Ace, Gender Queer author Maia Kobabe. Eir book is a vulnerable coming of age graphic novel that has found itself the main character in the latest conservative culture war.
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Courtney: Hello, everyone and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce, and together we are The Ace Couple. And today we are talking about a book. But the conversation is much greater than the book itself, for we are talking about none other than the current reigning number one most challenged and banned book, according to the American Library Association. And that book is Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe. Now Maia is actually an asexual, non-binary, queer author and illustrator, and this is a graphic novel. I’m holding it in my hands right now, because I actually read the entire thing, in its entirety, which is very important because there are a lot of people online right now talking about this book who haven’t done that. Royce, you haven’t read this book, so I’m going to tell you about it.
Royce: Sounds good.
Courtney: So first of all, I liked it for the most part. I had a lot of reactions while reading it through. It’s– as a graphic novel, I was able to read it in maybe an hour. It was a very quick read for me to do. And in the time I was reading it, I giggled aloud, I started tearing up at one point. And very, very sex-repulsed side of things, asexual me even gagged at one point. So we’re going to talk about all of that. Funnily enough, though, of all the conservatives who are trying to get this book banned – and in some cases are very successful at getting this book banned – the page that had me actually audibly gagging was not the one that I see thrown about most commonly as being sexually explicit. And they call it pornographic. And that’s why they’re trying to get it banned. But we’re going to talk about the definition of pornographic as well, because even the page that I didn’t like I wouldn’t call it pornographic.
Courtney: So one of the biggest issues with not only this book in particular, but anytime these conservative groups try to ban a book it’s normally a single passage or a single page taken completely out of context, and just shoved in everyone’s faces saying, “Look, this isn’t appropriate for– for children.” And I’ve even heard, like, John Green say exactly the same thing. Now, I’ve read a handful of John Green books in my day, but I’ve never read Looking for Alaska yet, but I know that that – several years ago – was also number one on the most banned books list. And I’ve heard him state that that’s because of a single page where there’s a very awkward and uncomfortable oral sex scene. And the point of the scene is that it is awkward, and it is forced, and it’s not actually an enjoyable or erotic thing. And that does have notes of what I saw in this book, because although it is called genderqueer, it’s also very much a coming of age story about someone not only figuring out eir gender identity but also sexuality, and coming to terms with being an asexual person.
Courtney: And I just find it so fascinating that yes, this is a graphic novel so they can have a shocking panel or two that they can take out of context and say, “See! Look at this!” But even novels that are purely written word, authors are saying the same thing, “Someone’s taking a single page and using that to try to ban my book.” So, the tactics here are exactly the same. And as a memoir this spans nearly the author’s entire life up until this point. So we start with the author at 3 years old. And there are a lot of key points in growing up and understanding what the current societal gender roles are that I think a lot of people could relate to, even if you yourself are not a gender queer individual. Because we have young Maia growing up in a pretty remote area, like out in the country, with a family who doesn’t especially subscribe to traditional gender roles. A mother who doesn’t shave her legs, a father who makes music and makes jewelry. But you also have just sort of a country kid who is finding snakes in the yard, and picking them up and befriending them.
Courtney: And, you know, just peeing in the yard instead of going to the out houses because of all the spiders that are in the outhouses. And you start to see these little indicators early on of the first time she and her friend – who is the neighbor boy next door – started growing up a little bit and meeting other kids. And Maia being told as someone who’s assigned female at birth, “Oh, you can’t come into our clubhouse with all these boys because you have cooties.” And this young child saying, “What…? What– what is ‘cooties’? And why is this a problem now? I’ve been playing with this boy for a long time.” And there’s definitely this theme of this child who just seems to feel like an outcast because, “Oh well, I didn’t know I was supposed to shave my legs once I start getting, like, hair. I didn’t–” Oh! The author didn’t know how to read until, I want to say, age 11.
Courtney: So feeling like, “I don’t know how to read, and all these other kids know how to read.” And then just sort of not knowing the social rules. One of the very early story bits in this is of going on a class trip to a beach and Maia’s father was actually a chaperone. And as a grown man on the beach, he took his shirt off and was just wearing shorts. And Maia, who’s still young– This is, like, third grade class so… I had started developing breasts in the third grade, but that’s not normal. I was– I was an early bloomer as they say. So still being depicted here as a very flat chested child who societally it should not be considered weird or sexual for a third grade child to have their shirt off playing in the water at the beach. Maia, you know, takes the shirt off and the teacher immediately is saying, “Hey, you need to put the shirt back on.” Sort of calling this poor kid over and, you know, Maia doesn’t understand, saying, “Why? My dad has his shirt off. Why can’t I have mine?” And it says here, [reading] “I didn’t feel that I had done anything wrong. It was everyone else being silly, not me.”
Courtney: Now I mentioned the author not reading until a bit later into childhood. It actually said that e started reading because of Harry Potter. And I will specify for listeners, Maia Kobabe does currently use e/eir pronouns, and I’m going to be using that even to refer to these earlier in life instances. But e was not using those pronouns at this time because, well, one, didn’t know they existed, but also this entire book is kind of coming to terms with gender identity, so we’ll get to that point when e discovered those pronouns and eir identity. But it was very interesting to see. And I think graphic novels can be very intimate when it’s in a memoir style like this, because you’re actually seeing little visual panels that are snippets of the author’s memory. These are fundamental memories that build who a person is. So I see them as being very, very intimate.
Courtney: And in the current climate of JK Rowling being the way she is, not a lot of people speak very favorably about those books these days, for obvious reasons. But to see this very intimate flashback of a genderqueer person’s life, where– learning to read because e fell in love with Harry Potter, and staying up late at night with a flashlight in bed trying to sound out the words to find out what happens next, was a little bit beautiful. It was a little bit devastating. But I don’t think that’s uncommon for someone in this age group, I think so many of us grew up with Harry Potter that it kind of has become a fundamental part of a lot of our memories and childhoods.
Courtney: And now here was the interesting thing too. Because then we get to menstruation, and there was a fictional character, a book series here, I hadn’t heard of Alanna the Lioness. I have not ever read those books.
Royce: I haven’t heard of them either.
Courtney: But apparently, this character also deals with having a period and Alanna’s first question was, “How long do I have to put up with this? I didn’t ask to be born a girl, it’s not fair.” And so, as a young genderqueer person, I could see how that’s a really formative memory. But it also says here that it’s because of those Alanna books that the author knew about periods involving bleeding every month, and that it was related to the ability to become pregnant. And that it was a – quote – “totally normal and natural thing to happen to young teen girls.” But even after reading those books Maia says, “But I never thought it would happen to me.” And there was a lot of shame for Maia involved with having this period. To the fact that e hid it from family for a while. Reused pads over and over saying, “It’s a wonder that I never – you know – got an infection.” And then you start to see the signs of having– you know, there’s shame about having a period and there’s discomfort, and even sometimes pain that goes along with it, but then you start seeing the more telltale signs of there being an element of gender dysphoria. Because then Maia starts going on to say that, “Even to this day, a huge number of my nightmares involve menstrual blood.” And Maya goes on to illustrate what these horrible nightmares, involving a period entail. And I found it very interesting that Maia was able to learn about periods from a fictional book series.
Royce: That book series, by the way, is a four-part Young Adult fantasy novel series that was written in the 80s, called The Song of the Lioness.
Courtney: Hmm. Okay. Yeah, I didn’t read those ones myself, but it does make me wonder how many Young Adult or children’s books actually talk about menstruation. Because I just haven’t seen that very much. I learned about menstruation because my mom saw that I was developing faster than my other classmates, in terms of breasts and body hair and whatnot, and so she enrolled me in, like, basically a health class that was run through the local hospital. So there was, like, a nurse for just, like, a single night for a couple hours that I went to this class, and the nurse was teaching the class about– about, you know, “Your body will start experiencing changes.”
Royce: Were you the youngest one in the class?
Courtney: I don’t really remember. I don’t think there were a lot of people there, but I almost want to say that there was a friend of mine who was in my same class, where, like, maybe our mothers talked and she was also in the class. So I think there was one other person I know, and I think because of that I wasn’t really paying much attention to anybody else. But I am really glad that I went to that. Because, even though it still wasn’t like– they’re still trying to keep it like age appropriate, it wasn’t the most comprehensive, like, it wasn’t sex education it was a “your body” education. It was still a lot more than what I ever ended up getting actually at school, so. But as a voracious reader when I was a kid, I would have much rather read about it in a book. But I did not.
Courtney: So then you get these other very relatable coming-of-age bits for, I think, anyone AFAB. Because this leg shaving conversation is something that, I swear, everyone I know has had a similar conversation of, like, “Well, if your hair is dark enough or long enough, then you do have to shave it. But you should wait to shave it as long as possible because once you start shaving, you won’t be able to stop and then it’s going to grow back even thicker, and even more coarse. So, it’s better not to shave it, but also you have to shave it.” And what’s up with that?!
Royce: The mixture of the gender roles and the old wives tales?
Courtney: Yeah! I mean, it’s just– it’s so odd. Because even Maia here is saying, like, “Oh, well, my mom has really, really blond, you know, fine hair. So she doesn’t really have to shave. But– but I don’t have that kind of hair. So people are saying that I’m gonna have to start to shave, but–” Then Maia, at this age, said, “This hair is so soft, and I don’t want to shave it.” And that’s something I can’t relate to because I cannot stand having leg hair or body hair. And I don’t think it is soft. My hair is not soft. Mine is very coarse. But also like, I don’t know if other people get this, I don’t know if this is a hypersensitivity thing, or if it’s just my body or what, but like my hair follicles will start to hurt if I have long hair.
Royce: Mine only hurt in certain circumstances. If I get really sick, like a flu, like a pretty bad flu or something like that, my hair follicles will hurt in places. If I wear something tight, like socks that come up high enough for too long, they’ll start to hurt but it’s only in those circumstances.
Courtney: Yeah! Well, having things tight against the legs– Because if I’m going out, I’m usually wearing a dress and I’m almost always wearing tights so, I– very often in going-out-clothing – I haven’t gone out in a long time – but I almost always have something tight against my legs like that.
Royce: That would do it for me then too. Sometimes– Sometimes this winter, I’ve worn long enough socks around the house, for long enough, that when I’ve taken them off in the evening I’ve– my hair follicles have felt tender.
Courtney: Yeah, and I don’t know what’s up with that. But you do tend to shave your legs, but you were not a young girl who had all of these adult women in your life talking about the– the necessity of shaving, but also how shaving makes things worse…
Royce: Right. I was aware of the stereotypes. I actually remember an episode of– Oh, what was it? It was some kind of cartoon... Okay, I can’t remember what this was, but I remember an episode of a cartoon where a teenage girl was worrying about needing to shave their legs and was being made fun of for it. And at one point in time, like during a sleepover, her and two of her friends attempted to wax, and it went very poorly.
Courtney: Oh no…
Royce: And they stopped. But the conclusion of this was them going to their younger brother, who often gets in trouble for things, and, like, told them about the problem. And they just produced, like, a little electric razor and was like, “Just shave your ankles below your jeans, and the person who’s making fun of you at school won’t be able to tell the difference.”
Courtney: Hmm. Interesting.
Royce: But yeah–
Courtney: I couldn’t tell you what show that is, that doesn’t ring a bell.
Royce: I can’t remember what it was. I tried to do a quick search and nothing came up. But I remember being a teenager and just being, I guess, very curious about my own body and I aesthetically have never liked body hair. So from that point in time, I occasionally experimented with removing it. I was actually a little frustrated years later. Because, when I had first started shaving my face, my older brother was the one who kind of told me how you’re supposed to do that and whatnot and, I think, like, got me a razor for – you know, an electric razor – for Christmas, or birthday, or something like that.
Royce: And at that point in time, he had told me, like, if you’re using a shaver with the guard off, be careful with it because the blades can cut you if you, like, get your skin in there. Unlike regular electric razor face, which is difficult, like, be careful with the trimmer. And so I was really extra careful with it. And it wasn’t until years later that I realized you could basically lightly drag that across your skin and very quickly remove hair without having to worry about anything. So I wasted so much time being careful around these unguarded razors.
Courtney: [laughs] Yeah, that’s kind of the interesting thing too. Because like, at least for my growing up, it was pretty expected that you would start shaving legs and that’s something that I did start doing. And it was for me something that was preferable, for me. And the– I don’t know the specific cartoon you were talking about, but I do feel like ‘young girl shaving her legs for a first-time’ is a really common trope in a lot of TV shows and movies. Like that gets depicted over and over again, and all the ways that that could possibly go wrong.
Royce: The show was As Told by Ginger.
Courtney: Oh! Well, I did see that then. Yeah, that sounds about right. That sounds about right. [laughs] But yeah, the ‘shaving the legs for the first time’ is such a common thing. But when I was a teenager and I had already been shaving my legs for a few years, I wanted to start getting rid of pubic hair. And that is not something that is as depicted in media. And that’s also something that I did not feel was as socially acceptable to, like, ask your mom about like, “Hey, mom, I want to start shaving my legs.” So…
Royce: Oh, I’d never asked them anything.
Courtney: [laughs] No, you wouldn’t have. But I was– at least, like, when it was time to start shaving my legs, I was at least like, “Hey, can I have a razor?” And I’m pretty sure my mom was like, “Oh, if you’re ready to start shaving, let’s get you Nair. Because if you use Nair, instead of a razor, that will last longer.”
Royce: Right. It’s also an easy way to get chemical burns.
Courtney: Yeah. So the first time I wanted to get rid of my pubic hair, I went to Walgreens and I got some Nair. And it was a disaster, so don’t do that. [laughs] But there was also this thing too– Because I think, even with shaving legs, there’s always kind of – for young girls – like the feminist argument of, like, “Oh well, you don’t have to shave your legs because that’s a male gaze thing.” But it was very much something that I wanted to do, and I don’t think people should feel pressured to do it if they don’t. When it came to, like, pubic hair, and I was like, “I want to remove this because I don’t like the way it feels. I don’t like the way it looks.” There was no way in my mind that I thought that I could articulate that to anybody that didn’t have some kind of sexual connotation. I was like, for sure if my mother knew that I wanted to remove my pubic hair, she’s going to think that I am having sex or that I want to have sex. And that thought was mortifying to me. So I was like, no, nobody is ever going to know. This is just going to be for me in private. And… didn’t go very well. There’s probably a wikiHow on that now.
Royce: There’s probably– [Courtney laughs] I was about to say YouTube video, but there are probably videos on sites that don’t get taken down.
Courtney: [laughs] There are probably better ways to look it up that I wasn’t privy to, or weren’t available at the time. So up until that point it was mostly noticing gender roles and gender expectations, but then we start getting some early experimenting with orientation. And says, “My first crush was my neighbor.” Who was the same boy that– the two of them were playing a lot, and he had two sisters. And this scene upset me so much, because I know that this happens all the time – and I think it is indicative of amatonormativity and compulsory sexuality that really does get ingrained in children early – where like these two young children kissed and these older kids, these older sisters were like, “That’s adorable, do it again.” And they thought it was so cute that they asked these young children to kiss each other again. Why do people do that?! I mean, even adults do that to a certain extent. I don’t think they’re as likely to tell children to kiss, but they’ll be like, “Oh! They’re holding hands, they’re soulmates. Oh, they’re meant to be. They’re going to fall in love.” I hate it.
Courtney: [reading] “But my second crush was on a tomboy girl in elementary school,” who Maia asked to kiss, but her response was, “I’d rather not.” Denied. And then there’s another boy, an older boy even, and then a girl who had a Lord of the Rings nickname. So, we’re alternating back and forth. And it was at this point that Maia is looking up words like gay and lesbian in the dictionary. And then, yeah, going into high school, Maia starts getting these comments that I also think just a lot of people have heard like, “Oh, girls getting crushes on girls is normal, but it’s just a phase.” That’s something I know I’ve heard. And then just having some friends that weren’t necessarily very supportive. But then in high school, right away in freshman year– I want to say, Maia was in California and grew up in a remote area in California. So maybe it’s why California– Maia already had a queer-straight alliance freshman year. But I’m pretty sure– First of all, in my school was called gay-straight alliance at the time. I don’t know which is more common these days. But I was probably a junior/senior when one got started in my school and it was not particularly well attended.
Courtney: And a lot of those friends that Maia made at the queer-straight alliance talked a lot about their favorite gay ships, which I– I still– I am never going to understand. I’m not going to understand shipping. We will probably talk about shipping more in the future, because I think it’s interesting. I do look at it with curiosity a lot of the time, but I have never been invested in a ship myself. I just don’t think my brain works that way.
Courtney: So here we come to the very first sort of panel that I’ve seen taken out of context and used to justify this book being taken out of schools and libraries. Maia talks about being eleven or twelve the first time e remembers fantasizing about having a penis. And talked about lying in the grass and sort of holding a handful of grass between the legs, just to sort of emulate a phallus to see what that would look like.
Courtney: And I haven’t seen that one mentioned much, but – very next page – Maia talks about eir standard method of masturbation, which is something that I had never heard of before. I learned of a new way to masturbate because of this book. I was like, “Oh! Okay, sure. Why not.” [reading] “Standard method was stuffing a stock– a sock in the front of my pants and manipulating the bulge. This would evolve into hip thrusting while thinking of my latest gay ship. Memorably, I got off once while driving just by rubbing the front of my jeans and imagining getting a blow job.” And so these panels we see – since it is graphic novel – an image of someone just wearing jeans and, sort of, holding the crotch region, two guys in a gay ship naked and kissing. You don’t see any genitals. And that’s close to about as explicit as this book gets. And the thing is, we’ll talk about the other panels that go on as we get there. But from what I understand the definition of pornography is explicit, sexual content with the intention of arousal or titillation. And all of this to me is very matter-of-fact. And the fear-mongering that goes into this book is like, “Oh, there are two boys, they are naked. This is pornography.” I’m pretty sure there are shows on TV where you can see as much as you see on– on this panel. Like it’s basically just a naked back, is what you’re seeing.
Royce: There are statues and paintings in museums that are pretty close, if not there.
Courtney: Mh! I’m glad you brought that up because we’re gonna– we’re gonna– we’re gonna put a pin in that. But this next page, I’m just going to hand it to you, Royce. You can– you can run this one down, because this is– this is the one that made me gag.
Royce: Oh, really? This seems like, so– [Courtney laughs] I mentioned I never really asked or brought things up to adults ever. So, this is a conversation with– with eir older sister…?
Courtney: Older sister, yeah.
Royce: It just seems so odd to me to have a conversation like this, about masturbating, just casually with another person, particularly a family member. But okay.
Courtney: Maia’s sister, I believe, also did the coloring in this book. So, very supportive sister who has had a– had a big hand in Maia’s life and book. But I was like, I might die if someone tried to have that conversation with me. [laughs]
Royce: If someone asked you if you tried to ever put something inside yourself, and then also follow that up with surprise that “Wait, you’ve never tasted yourself?”
Courtney: Yeah… that’s a thing people do…? [laughs]
Royce: This is a– I find this funny. [Courney bursts out laughing] Because there’s a panel that says–
Courtney: The panel itself or my reaction to it?
Royce: The panel mostly. Kind of both. [Courney laughs] But the panel, that’s just a person staring at their finger, very intently, like, full of concentration. And the wording is just, “And so… vagina slime.” [Courney laughs] Okay, I’ll hand this back to you.
Courtney: Which, Maia eventually did say, “Nope, can’t do it. I refuse.” Same, Maia. I’m impressed you got as far as you did. You got further than I would. [laughs] Yeah even– so the– Back to my– my sex-ed class at the hospital, there was one piece of advice that they gave us that I still to this day have never followed. They were like, you should take a mirror and just look around down there. Get to know your body. Look– see what it looks like. See where everything is. And I was like, “Absolutely not. I’m never doing that.” [laughs] And I still to this day have not.
Courtney: Actually, I believe that is also a piece of advice that was mentioned in Michele’s book, Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World. And I read that and I was like, Michele, you are calling me out specifically. [laughs] I was told to do this decades ago and still have not.
Courtney: But while on the topic of Ace Notes, I will say before I forget, Maia Kobabe is actually one of the interviews published in the Ace Notes book. So, if you do want to hear more of a first-hand account and interview from this author, that would be a great book to pick up. It’s coming out at the end of March. We’ll go ahead and put a link in the description. Not only to the Gender Queer book, because I do think you should read this, especially if you’re going to be talking about it, since it’s a hot topic online right now. But we’ll also put a link to pre-order Ace Notes, and if you use the code TAC20, you can get 20% off that order too. Not gonna lie, I did feel just, like, a little fancy having an interview published in the same book as Maia Kobabe. I was like, “Oh! I made the big time now.”
Courtney: So then, as Maia continues talking about attraction and what attraction really is, I found this pretty relatable. Because to me, I think, it is more of a– more on the romantic side of things possibly, sometimes aesthetic a little bit, but this page says, “The main trait I’ve always been attracted to is androgyny. Which made categorizing my sexuality difficult.” Yes, it does. There are not commonly used words in the lexicon that mean ‘I am attracted to androgyny’. And then just, I think, these couple of pages capture the questioning before you– when you’re an ace person and you don’t know that asexuality is an option yet. Just trying to figure out what is attraction and what does it mean to me. I think this questioning is really, really well laid out in here. Which is very much why we need books like this. Because Maia says, “Did the girl with a buzz cut catch my eye because she was a girl, or because she was dressed as a boy? Was it his seemingly feminine or masculine qualities that drew me to the long-haired boy in choir? My deepest emotional relationships have always been with women. Did that mean I was a lesbian? But my sexual fantasies involved two male partners, was I a gay boy trapped in a girl’s body?”
Courtney: And it says, “The knowledge of a third option slept like a seed under the soil.” It’s the secret, third thing. And from an ace perspective, the very next page I thought was just beautiful, because then you have that secret third thing seed, which blooms, and it says, “This seed put out many leaves but I didn’t have the language to identify the plant.” And each of these leaves say things like, “I never want to have sex. I hate my breasts. I don’t want to have kids.” Things of that nature. And then I do want to read– This is probably my favorite page, or one of the pages that, at least, sticks out the most in my memory after reading the whole thing. There’s this sort of winding illustration of, like, a nautilus shell. So, you have to kind of actually rotate to the book along with the shell and the spiral to read all of these thoughts. But to me, that’s a really good visual indicator of what these sort of thought spirals can be like. When you have all these pieces but don’t know how to put them together.
Courtney: And on this page, it says, “If I was trans, wouldn’t I be saying ‘I am a boy’ not ‘I wish I was a boy’? Wouldn’t I be more sure? And if I am Trans, am I a gay boy or a straight boy? Or bisexual boy. Except I’m not sure if I ever want to have sex. Does that mean I’m asexual? If I’m asexual, does my gender even matter? So I can just be a girl, but I don’t feel like a girl. What am I?” And I thought that ‘if I’m asexual, does my gender even matter’ was so poignant. Because I– first of all non-binary people are heavily represented in the Ace community. I think there’s a much higher percentage of Ace non-binary folks than there are allo non-binary folks. And I find that really, really fascinating. But I think, because of that, a lot of us will, at one point or another, start to question our gender identity. And in the current system that we live in, gender and sex are so heavily intertwined – in this very compulsory heterosexual world that we live in – that if you do take sex out as a factor, it’s pretty easy for someone, especially questioning, to say, like, “Well, does gender even matter, if sex isn’t a factor?”
Courtney: And to some people it might not. But to some people gender is still completely removed and detached from sex or sexuality, and it’s all very personal from individual to individual. So, Maia then starts keeping a list of all books read over the summer after 9th grade. And e became a voracious reader, and talked about going to the library over the summer to discover more and more queer books. Including some that had what Maia describes as very tame, gay sex scenes. And e talks about this [reading] “feeling as if lightning was coming from the pages, electricity flowing directly into my palms.” Which is a type of attraction that I’ve never experienced. It’s something I can’t relate to, but I can imagine – as someone who doesn’t want to have sex and isn’t yet sure what their gender identity is – that something like this can be really confusing.
Courtney: And Maia never uses the word aegosexual to identify, but I think a lot of people who do identify as aegosexual can probably relate to a lot of these portions of this book, where you don’t necessarily want to engage in the sexual activity yourself, but you do enjoy reading books about it. You enjoy fantasizing about your gay ship, and things of that nature. So then Maia goes on to talk about the sex-ed in school. The progression of it from 7th grade, to 9th grade, to 10th grade, to 11th grade. And I’m just impressed that the kids at this school got that much sex-ed, because that’s way more than I did.
Royce: I think mine was only a semester early in high school.
Courtney: Yeah. And of course, still, even here with more sex education, it still says the main kind of sex discussed was sex involving a penis and a vagina, that’s unsurprising. But we have the anatomy, which I did get like a spreadsheet of the anatomy, like “Label the ovaries, label the vas deferens.” But in 9th grade: condoms, birth control, and pregnancy. Did not get that. 10th grade was the chlamydia, herpes, warts, syphilis, gonorrhea scare. I got that in 7th or 8th grade, and that was about it for me. It was that and the anatomy and nothing else. But then 11th grade, you start getting communication, consent, and pleasure. I can’t even picture what that would be like in a school. And, you know, something to– to parallel this with the conservative groups trying to ban this book. I think we were supposed to have a little more of the sex-ed class than we did in middle school, but I distinctly remember some very conservative Christian parents, like, complaining about it and trying to get it boycotted.
Royce: I mean, I think that is exactly what’s happening with this new round of extreme conservatism and the banning of books.
Royce: They’re trying to prevent people from learning knowledge that could help them find themselves, and in some way deviate from what those conservative cultures want them to be. I think it’s very much a means to keep generations who have children ignorant and thus more malleable and easy to control.
Courtney: Yeah. Because the same parent that was, you know, raising hell about sex education in middle school was also the same parent who, like, wouldn’t let their kid read Harry Potter because witchcraft is of the devil. I wonder how that parent feels about JK Rowling these days. It’s so weird to see conservatives defending JK Rowling as some feminist icon now, when I know damn well that twenty years ago, some of them were protesting it for witchcraft.
Courtney: And you know, as someone who studies and researches the– the culture, and history, and sentiment of hair – not necessarily hair that’s still on the head, but that can be interesting sometimes, especially when you take into– consider changing gender norms over time. Maia does have the all-important, very first, large chop, going very short with the hair. And specifically asking to go to a salon and trying to articulate what exactly e wanted using words like, “Can you make it a little not too grown-up?” Secretly meaning not too feminine. “Can you make it a little boyish?” Secretly meaning, kind of gay. And ended up getting an A-line bob, hated instantly, and yet– I know this feels like something you’d do, if you were trying to get your hair done and didn’t like it. It’s just like, “Thanks so much. Bye. I’ll just live with it.”
Royce: I mean I started cutting my own hair when I was 16 or 17. I didn’t trust anyone else to do it, or for me to be able to articulate it.
Courtney: I don’t think I knew that you cut your own hair. I just knew that you–
Royce: I told you that.
Courtney: –you stopped cutting your hair at a certain point.
Royce: Oh, I did that too. But, yeah, I started cutting my own hair and did so for several years.
Courtney: Did you ever have an instance where someone cut it wrong but you didn’t– you couldn’t tell them to fix it?
Royce: I wasn’t quite sure. I didn’t have an instant, “This is wrong,” reaction but it did set in over, like, a period of a week or two. And then I just cut it myself and that was the last time I got a professional haircut.
Courtney: [laughs] So yeah, poor Maia goes home and asks mom to fix it. Cut it even shorter. And then there’s the thought of, “If only I could get rid of my breasts this quickly.” There are a couple of different scenes of bra shopping. Sort of the very first sports bra in 7th grade, and then going along with eir sister to try to find one that, you know, tries to reduce as much as possible and not accentuate. Bra shopping has also been my least favorite kind of shopping over the years, but for different reasons. There’s a memory of Maia’s sister saying, “You never act like a boy or a girl, I think you’re a genderless person.” And there is this moment of like, “Huh? She knew before I did.” Okay, then we have– And I really like this, because I like the individual memories, and the little sort of snippets and illustrations of dialogue or events taking place. But I also like, occasionally, when there’s just like a timeline of things that comes out.
Courtney: So there’s this, “My high school coming out journey. Circa 2003 to 2007.” Which, in the background of this, there are labeled clouds of background gender confusion. So, this one’s specifically ‘orientation coming out’, but began: “Wondering if I was gay (age 13). Told one friend I had liked a girl (age 14). Joined the QSA, told a second friend I liked boys and girls, saw The Laramie Project (age 15).” That’s always a formative high school queer experience. Royce, you aren’t a theater person. Do you know–?
Royce: I do not.
Courtney: –much about that?
Courtney: The Laramie Project is a play about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. I’m also pretty sure my high school put on the Laramie Project. [reading] “After seeing Laramie Project (age 15) decided I was a lesbian. Immediately got a crush on a boy. Much confusion. Decided I was bisexual. Decided I was asexual. Started hanging out with the theater kids (age 16). Got asked directly, ‘Are you gay?’ and answered I don’t know. Decided to never have a crush again because they are stupid.” [laughs] “Came out to a handful of other friends as bi (age 17). Decided I wanted to come out to my parents.” The number of aces I know who either thought they were, or actually came out as bi before coming out as Ace, is astonishing to me.
Courtney: Mom seemed pretty cool and accepting, and not surprised that Maia coming out as bi. But Maia’s parents met when they were 19 and 21. And so then as a 19 and 21 year old, Maia’s thinking, “Wow, I’m the same age as my dad when they met. I’m the same age as my mom when they met.” And I think that’s pretty normal for people to kind of compare, once they start getting into their adulthood, where their parents were at the same place as you are now. But that can be especially confusing for ace people, aro people, people who are questioning orientation or identity, or just unpartnered people in general, because there is sort of the chrononormativity of, “You should be partnered by this age, you should be getting married, you should be having kids.” And when other people around you, or other family members before you have hit all of those earlier, it becomes really glaringly obvious.
Courtney: So Maia goes to college, becomes an art student and also joins the drama club and ends up getting cast in a male role, and for the first time has a chest binding experience. Now, this first one was with Ace bandages, which Maia is very careful to point out that that is dangerous. You can crack your ribs doing that. But at the time, it felt really good on stage to have a flattened chest. My only binding experience was when I was a very serious, competitive dancer and I needed to flatten my chest for the sake of fitting into my costumes, and also keeping the boobs down so they didn’t smack me in the face. And I’m pretty sure what I did also was not very safe, because I literally just used, like, compression socks that people use after, like, back surgeries to prevent blood clots in their legs. I just, like, cut the foot off of one and pulled that up and then I doubled it over. So it was like I was wearing two compression socks on my chest and it was not easy to breathe. It was probably very, very dangerous.
Royce: I think you did a lot of things during your dance career that would not be advised by health professionals.
Courtney: I think I’ve just done a lot of things in my life, period, that wouldn’t be advised by medical professionals. I did find this one little line pretty funny, I chuckled at this. Just sort of in feeling jealous of people who have flat chests, wishing to not have boobs anymore, saying, “If I didn’t have boobs, I would take my shirt off all the time and feel the sunshine on my back.” And then there’s just a panel that says, “My boobs are holding my back hostage.” I can say the same with back pain. I have back pains for other reasons than just boobs, but they don’t help. Oh my gosh, I even had a doctor recently who referred to my breasts as large and pendulous. Why did he do that? [laughs] “Now, you have very large pendulous breasts.” Yes, I’m aware. I’m very aware of this fact, doctor!
Courtney: So while in college and working at the library, there’s a girl who has a crush on Maia and someone tries to set them up while Maia is working at the library. And so this girl just strolls up and is like, “This girl’s looking to give her heart to on Christmas– This girl is looking for someone to give her heart to on Christmas, someone to love.” Someone who, apparently immune to embarrassment. And Maia’s response is to just flee, “I have to go. Byeeeee”. Then just a lot of confusion. Like, “Is this something I want? I can’t really tell.” Then just a very self-meditative panel: “I found the concepts of dating and relationships deeply confusing. What exactly did people get out of them?” And so here’s something we’ve talked about before.
Courtney: It’s how people see things very differently. So, Maia is on the phone with this girl and is kind of like, “Umm, what does relationship mean to you?” And the response is, “Companionship, texting when you’re apart, holding hands when you’re together, having each other’s backs.” And Maia’s like, “This all sounds like friendship to me.” “Plus that magical knowledge that you are the most special person to your partner. And maybe being physically intimate.” And then Maia is like, “Right. Sex, gross.” [laughs] It’s like, you had me up until the sex. [laughs]
Courtney: So, then there’s this moment where, in 2010, Maia saw the figure skater Johnny Weir and entranced, and decided to go as Johnny Weir for Halloween. And so ei went to Jo-Ann’s Fabric and Crap to get rhinestones to make this very, you know, figure skater costume. Ribbons and glitter.
Courtney: And then you have this very, very good sort of panel on the next page saying, “The clearest metaphor I had for my own gender identity in college was the image of a scale. A huge weight had been placed on one side without my permission. I was constantly trying to weigh down the other side.” And the big one that was placed without permission is labeled as ‘assigned female at birth’. So on the other side of the scale, Maia is trying to add smaller weights that are like short hair, baggy clothes. [reading] “But the end goal wasn’t masculinity. The goal was balance. Dressing up as a male character let me play with the idea of how I would choose to present myself, if the weight of the sign ‘sex’ had been placed on the other side of the scale.” And then Maia’s basically looking at a stack of things like makeup, jewelry, dresses saying, “If I had been born a boy, I would play with this stuff every day.” Which is really interesting and kind of reminded me of– Royce, did you watch any of the seasons of Drag Race with me that had Gottmik on it?
Royce: I saw some of it, yes.
Courtney: Yeah, Gottmik is a trans man who is a drag queen. And I find that to be really, really interesting, because people who don’t understand gender identity and don’t understand what it is to be trans might look at someone dressing up as a drag queen and be like, “Well, why couldn’t you just be a woman?” Because it’s not the same thing. Gender expression is different from gender identity. And Gottmik doesn’t tend to pad very often, but I did think at one point, like, “That’s really brilliant.” Because with my boobs, I don’t have a choice, they’re just always on. But if I had them removed, I could choose to put something back on if and when I want them. Makes a lot of sense.
Courtney: There was a really honest and vulnerable scene of having a gynecology appointment. I’m not going to go into everything in detail, so you can read the book if you want to see that. But oof, man. Gynecology appointments, that’s a whole thing.
Courtney: So, Royce, you mentioned artwork in museums. One of the controversial illustrations in here is basically directly off of an antique greek vase. And this is, I think, the only time that we actually have an illustration of actual penises, and it’s on the same page as Maia saying that, yes, this is an elaborate fantasy based on Plato’s Symposium, but then saying, [reading] “The more that I had to interact with my genitals, the less likely I was to reach a point of any satisfaction. The best fantasy was one that didn’t require any physical touch at all.”
Courtney: So, again, this is– it’s literally something you can find in a museum. It is also on the opposite page as Maia saying, “My first year at San Francisco Pride, thinking that the asexual group had the best signs.” And then, we have an asexual group here with the signs you’d expect like, “Why have sex when you can have cake?” “How about we just cuddle?” “Asexuals have other things on their mind.” And you have an Ace flag. You have a poster with a spade on it. But then, apparently, and this is– this is something that I can’t relate to, on my extreme ‘lack of everything’ side of the spectrum that I’m on, but Maia started to sort of like keep track of when e masturbated. And that it was not very often and that there would be months in between.
Courtney: But then apparently Maia noticed a pattern, where year-to-year, it would just be like the same few months out of the year again. And I just thought this panel was really funny, “Was my body operating on a seasonal sexual cycle like a bird?” There’s a very silly, frantic looking bird here.
Courtney: And yeah, Royce, you mentioned the sister and not knowing how to have a conversation like this. I also, while reading this, I was like you have a relationship with your sister unlike any relationship I’ve ever had with anyone in my life. Because Maia ended up purchasing a sex toy at one point, not liking it, and then being like, “Hey sis, – [laughs] – do you want this?” So… yeah. Sister Phoebe’s like, “Yeah, sure. I’ll take that.”
Royce: See, that’s interesting because there is a part of me that is like: if there is a perfectly good working something, I don’t want to throw it away. Like, that’s wasteful. But I also would not have had a relationship with someone where it would have been like, “Hey, do you want this thing?”
Courtney: Right?! [laughs] There are a couple of pretty in-depth conversations of Maia, then coming out to eir parents as genderqueer. And it seems like mom, at least, was trying to understand and be supportive, but didn’t seem to take in that information as readily as coming out as bisexual earlier, for example. So, there was sort of a learning curve there. So then Maia starts writing fanfiction. And I thought this was really funny, because at one point Maia stops and is like, “I don’t know how to write about kissing.” And was like, “I need to make out with someone for research.” And Maia did elaborate, “To put this commitment to research into perspective, here are other things I did in service of my fic: watched 10 hours of live college modern dance performances; spent several days driving around San Francisco scouting locations; tour of the San Francisco Armory.” And so on and so forth. So basically Phoebe helped Maia set up a Tinder for the purposes of trying to makeout with someone for research, for fan fiction. Which is just like the best reason for an ace to start dating that I can possibly think of. [laughs] I love it.
Courtney: So by this point also, mind you, Maia is 25 and has never had sex. So everything from this point forward, well into adulthood, well after Maia’s parents were even married at the same age. Because the thing that I’ve started to see, because the conservatives twist it more and more and more every time, and when you take it out of context it’s easy to do that, but I’ve heard the words child pornography thrown out there. Absolutely not. Just because it is illustrated in a graphic novel does not mean that all of the characters are children. So Maia actually ends up hitting it off with one of these matches on Tinder. And as someone who has intermittently wondered what it would be like to have a penis, they started experimenting with that. And in the head, in the mind, thinking of getting a blow job was something that was appealing in theory. But then we have the most thrown about panel that people use to try to get this book banned. Is these two right here.
Courtney: So it’s Maia wearing a strap-on, and you see the visual of looking down Maia’s partner at this time, and Maia saying, “This is the visual I’d been picturing, but I can’t feel anything. This was much hotter when it was only in my imagination.” And you can tell the look on Maia’s face is kind of concern. There’s even a speech bubble saying, “Hey, Z…” Like, I don’t know how I feel about this. So like the very first panel is a little bit shocking, but then you pan out it’s not even a real penis. Not that that matters, but these are also grown-ups. And people are like, “This is child pornography.” Absolutely not, it is not. And it’s also, again kind of just like John Green was saying, this is an awkward oral sex encounter. This isn’t even really erotic. The very next panel is, “Let’s try something else.” And Maia’s partner saying, “Of course.” And being really supportive. So that’s also showing a healthy communication of, like, this thing we’re doing isn’t working for me. And I just– I don’t know, I can’t look at these two panels and be like, yeah, that’s clearly designed to arouse people. But that’s– that’s the most graphic it gets, right there. Those are the two that get thrown around the most.
Royce: Right, I mean, the criticisms are not being made in good faith, there’s an agenda behind them.
Courtney: So then Phoebe actually starts dating a trans man. So Maia has a couple of good conversations with him. And then it was in 2015, that Maia meets back up with someone whom e had met previously, who is now identifying as non-binary. And this is when Maia’s saying, like, “Wow, actually me too.” But hadn’t quite figured out pronouns yet. Also, there was sort of a panel earlier on about thinking about do I want to change my name? Do any of these more gender-neutral names seem to fit? And not really getting anything to stick. And was this new person Jana who, having this conversation, being like, “Oh, I use the Spivak pronouns: e/em/eir.” And this moment, this illustration of Maia’s eyes just lighting up with stars being like, “That’s it! That’s the one. That sounds great.” And even said, “I love those pronouns. I just got the biggest tingle down my spine.”
Courtney: Maia then had a conversation with aunt Sherry, who came out as a lesbian feminist before Maia was even born. And that conversation started pretty rocky with this very old-fashioned idea of feminism. Maia’s aunt basically said that if you don’t identify as a woman, that’s basically a deeply internalized hatred of women, and “I struggle to see this as anything other than another kind of misogyny.” So that’s not great. But after a really, really, really lengthy conversation, it ended on better terms. And oddly enough, let me show you this other panel that gets thrown around pretty often side by side with the strap-on oral sex scene. Because now that Phoebe’s partner is a trans man, Phoebe and her partner are helping to, you know, help Maia get underwear that e feels more comfortable wearing. And for Christmas, they get Maia binders.
Courtney: And this panel right here I see side-by-side with the oral sex scene, when people are like, “Is this really what you want your kids seeing?” And it’s literally just Maia wearing a binder saying, “It feels very good to wear it, but it also feels very good to take it off.” And then saying, “Wearing a binder for too long makes me feel like I need to shed out of my skin.” And it shows an illustration of a snake shedding. And– What? Like, they’re– You can’t tell me that’s not calculated. Like putting chest binders, using language that you could also say for bras– Like how often do cis women say, like, “Oh, it feels so good to get out of my bra at the end of the day.” Like the only thing that conservatives could have a gripe about is that they don’t think non-binary or trans people are valid. That’s it. That’s all it is. And the snake is a hearken back to the very beginning of the book with young Maia catching snakes in the yard in the country.
Courtney: But I do really like that this book shows the moments when family and friends are really supportive. I like when it shows when they aren’t supportive. And I like when it shows that they’re trying, but they’re making mistakes also. Like the parents starting to get a little bit better at using the Spivak pronouns for Maia, but also still slipping up sometimes.
Courtney: And then I really liked– [laughs] Actually, I don’t know if you heard this the other day, Royce, but you were driving me to a doctor’s appointment and I started chuckling because we drove past a Ross Dress for Less. [laughs] And I almost said something, but I was like, “Nah, wait till we record this.” And so we’re going to do this soon. But Maia went to a Pride Parade in just very gender-neutral clothing, just jeans, solid color shirt, nothing flashy. But also seeing other people at Pride Parade, like, wearing fishnet tights and big flamboyant skirts and huge hats and everything. And then kind of being like, “Well, shoot, I’m the square. – [laughs] – I am the boring one here.” And sort of, “How did I end up with the wardrobe of a bland teenage boy?” And then Maia just sort of asking emself, like, “What would I wear if money were no object?” And the answer is, “Well, that’s easy. Alexander McQueen.” And all of these, you know, flashy flamboyant clothes. [reading] “So in an effort to achieve the high fantasy, gay wizard prince look of my dreams I began giving myself strict shopping guidelines.” And it shows Maia going to a Boss Dress for a Quest. [laughs] It’s so good! [reading] “Slowly, I began to collect things that felt queer and magical.”
Courtney: And then the story ends with a very sort of self-reflective scene where Maia is now teaching comics workshops to junior high kids at local libraries, and sort of noticing that most of the kids that come to these workshops are AFAB from ages eleven to fourteen, and thinking, “Well, those were the big years of my gender confusion. And I wonder if any of my students feel the same way that I did.” And then kind of saying that, you know, Maia doesn’t always come out to students as a non-binary adult, and isn’t sure if using eir proper pronouns is something that will become too political that parents will try to get the classes shut down. And– So even someone who is so very out, as to write this memoir, is also saying, you know, “Here are some situations where I still don’t know that I can do this in every situation.” And also simultaneously wondering, am I doing a disservice to my students? Because how many of my students are just like me and, you know, would have killed to have an adult like me in their life when they were figuring things out.
Courtney: So that is Gender Queer. I think it is a really good coming-of-age ace story. It’s a really good coming-of-age genderqueer story. But the really sad fact of the matter is, it is being banned. And the thing is, when the conservatives who are opposed to this book talk about it online, they will say that people want this to be in elementary school libraries. “People think this is fit for elementary school children.” I’ve never seen anyone make that assertion, first of all.
Royce: The comment I see about the original printing and marketing was older teens and adults, was who it was designed for.
Courtney: Yes! And it has won a number of awards. It has the Stonewall book honor. The American Library Association also gave it an Alex award, which is for books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults. Young adults meaning, you know, teenagers in terms of book demographics. So the Library Association is even saying this is an adult demographic book. It does have a special appeal to young adults as well. Nobody is saying – except the conservatives trying to ban it – that the author wrote this for elementary school-age children. That’s where you start getting these really nefarious claims of, “Oh, this is grooming children.” And I have seen that thrown over and over again. And that is exceptionally dangerous language.
Courtney: And I’ve even seen some ace folks, and even some genderqueer folks, who are themselves parents – maybe have kids who are in middle school or high school – who have also seen that panel in question, of the awkward strap-on oral sex scene, and they’ll even say, “Well, I don’t want my kid of that age reading this book.” So, I’ve seen some queer people agree with the conservative evangelicals that this shouldn’t be in school libraries. And now the thing about that is that it’s not just school libraries. It’s getting challenged at public libraries across the Nation, also. Michigan voters even defunded the public library, after the library refused to get rid of this book. So there are public libraries losing money, losing funding, because people don’t want this to be anywhere on the shelf, in a public library. And that’s absolutely despicable. We have conservative politicians in Virginia, who are suing the author, the author and the publisher, just because this book exists. And people are trying to get it blanketly banned by citing, like, old-fashioned obscure obscenity laws.
Courtney: But the really interesting thing is, because when we look at the list of the 10 most challenged books, they’re pretty exclusively either queer content and/or black content. Because there are also people who are making challenges like, “Oh, Critical Race Theory doesn’t belong in our schools.” And you know, “These BIPOC authors writing these books… Well, it’s anti-white, it’s anti-American, it’s anti-police.” And what I really need people to understand is even if you point to this one panel that is not an entire book, and in context there is nothing arousing about it to deem it to be pornography. It’s a very small snippet in an overall life story. But it also really doesn’t matter to the people who are trying to get it banned. Because this is not the only book written by an ace author that has made headlines over the last year, because people are trying to get the book banned.
Courtney: And the other one is Heartstopper by Alice Oseman. Heartstopper is, like, famously the most sweet, innocent, non-sexual, just pure fuzzy happy romance vibes, like, queer teenage content that I think exists, period, right now. There might be some more that haven’t made as big of a name for themselves, but– I haven’t read all of the Heartstopper books, but I’d be astonished if there’s actually, like, an explicit sex scene in them, because there certainly wasn’t in the TV show. But now that the TV show got big enough, people are trying to ban Heartstopper from not only schools, but also public libraries. And yeah, it’s hard to talk about the argument when someone takes it to such a personal level as ‘I am a parent and I don’t want my kid reading this,’ because that’s such a personal individual level. That it’s really hard to combat that. But I think as a general rule, one specific demographic of parents should not ruin the education or content that everybody has access to. Because that’s the same thing that happened with my sex education in school. I basically didn’t get any because one or two parents complained about it. Why did those one or two parents have more of a say than my parent? Or all of our other parents. Or you know, our highly educated teachers who went to school for this?
Royce: Right. And the concept of having a book on a library, it’s not like someone is breaking into your child’s home and shoving this book in their hands and forcing them to read it. It wasn’t a part of curriculums in classes, particularly not of the age groups they were arguing for.
Royce: But that’s the whole point of this. I mean, this is not a genuine disagreement, this is an attempt to eradicate queer culture.
Courtney: Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t know how to tell those parents that your kids have access to a lot of explicit content. In all libraries. And also the internet. And like, yeah, sure that’s not the best argument in the world, but it’s also– it’s just true. [laughs] I mean, I read a book that had an oral sex scene when I was in high school. It’s not that uncommon. And I’m pretty sure that one was written to titillate. It just didn’t work on me. [laughs]
Royce: I mean, the banning of books for one reason or another is not new, but it’s something that is supposed to be argued against, withstood. I’m not sure what the right way to say this is, but like in a country that has the freedom of speech in, like, the very beginning of its constitution, I feel like I’ve seen so many cases of shows growing up, or bits of English class, where the– the idea of resisting censorship is supposed to a point of pride.
Courtney: Mm-hmm. And honestly, there are some high school kids that also rebel against this. In the New York Times I was reading about an 11th grade student who says banning Gender Queer sent a harmful message to gay, transgender and non-binary students. And she set up a petition to try to reverse the ban that got over 1,000 signatures. And now she’s starting a Banned Book Club at her local library to read books like this and others that have been banned. And the thing is, I don’t know why we’re treating high school students as if they don’t have their own autonomy. Because really, like, this 11th grader who’s starting a petition, and starting a book club, and feels passionately about this book being, like, allowed in her school, she’s probably – 11th grade – 16 or 17, not an adult, doesn’t have the full rights of an adult, but she is definitely old enough to have a little autonomy over the things that she reads and the things that she watches, and the way she thinks. And you can’t really– They make it this climate where you can’t even say that. And you can’t advocate for minors to have their own rights, because they talk about all children, as we need to protect all of the children. They take that as everyone under 18. Although I’ve seen some legislation where people are trying to, like, bump up to like 21, 22. A legislator tried to say, like, you can’t transition until age 25. Like, they’re trying to increase the age of when you get legal autonomy.
Royce: Right, and because all of this, and similar to this, it’s all about control. Like that’s why it exists [Courtney assents] With– with people growing up and getting into their lives later in life, the conservatives are like, “Oh, people aren’t starting families until after they escape our grasp, and actually can control their own lives.”
Courtney: But yeah, it really is a wide-scale political attack. And the thing is we can’t look at this single panel and– We can’t give them an inch. If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. You can’t be like, “Well, I can kind of see that because I don’t want my kid reading that.” First of all, do you know everything your kid’s already reading? If they’re old enough that they’re already in this demographic…
Royce: Do you also actually know the material you’re speaking about?
Courtney: Also that. And it really, really is growing. The American Library Association last year logged the highest number of book banning attempts since it began recording data in 2000. Yeah, in fact, PEN America stated in a report that book bans have grown into a full-fledged social and political movement, powered by local, state, and national groups, from the 2021 to 22 school year. And that the censorship movement originally focused on discussions of race and racism, over the past year, it morphed to include a heightened focus on LGBTQ+ issues and identities. And if you look at all the stats for percentages of books that are being banned, it’s extraordinary what high percentage of these are queer and/or BIPOC stories. So, we have to look at book bans as nothing less than the political attack on our identities that it is.
Royce: I mean, this may be self-explanatory from what you just mentioned, but it seems pretty clear that it’s just another arm of the white nationalist movement.
Courtney: Yeah, it is! There’s– there’s no if’s and’s or but’s about it. And, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t like it when books get banned. I don’t like it when queer books get attacked. So I’m feeling saucy and I think we’re going to do a book giveaway for this. So, if you made it all the way to the end, go ahead and find our tweet announcing this week’s episode. I’ll put a link in the description. Give it a like, give it a comment, give it a retweet, and we will announce the winner one week from the date of this episode being released. If you don’t want to wait that long, or if you are not one of our winners, we’ll still for sure put links to find and purchase the book on your own in the description. And until next time, remember to read more banned books.