Sally Snyder attended the October meeting prepared with a presentation that included handouts of the most disturbing illustrations and text from Gender Queer
For Clark County Today
In recent years, school boards across the nation have been answering to parents regarding literature found inside school libraries deemed by many as inappropriate. This month, attention was turned to Columbia River High School and one book in particular – Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe – when Vancouver resident Sally Snyder did some digging into her local schools and discovered that the troubling book was located at CRHS.
Snyder told Clark County Today that she had seen the book mentioned in articles where parents had complained to other school boards from different states about the content of the book and its availability to students.
One would think that books inside school libraries would be unquestionably appropriate for students, especially this one, as it was given an Alex Award by the American Library Association. That same group said that although Gender Queer was written for adults, it has “special appeal to young adults ages 12-18.”
Gender Queer is written in comic book-style and is described on Amazon in the following manner: “Maia Kobabe …uses e/em/eir pronouns. 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.”
While it’s advertised here as a “touching” story meant to innocently sympathize with those who identify as “nonbinary and asexual” and help them not feel isolated, the accompanying photos scream otherwise. In fact, they are actual pornography, Snyder argued, which is what she told the Vancouver Public School Board at a board meeting in October.
Snyder attended the October meeting prepared with a presentation that included handouts of the most disturbing illustrations and text from Gender Queer. While holding up some of the pornographic images, which included multiple penises and depictions of oral copulation, Snyder read from part of the book. “We’ve been dating for two months,” she read. “We’ve made out, we’ve had sex. We’ve moved on to sexting at work.’’ This text continued with graphic sexual acts depicted.
Snyder explained that the images were the same as can be viewed and deemed pornographic on the internet. She asked the board who made the decision to allow the book to be available to children to view, and also asked for the book to be removed from the school’s shelves.
A few days following the board meeting, Snyder received an email from Silvia Navarro, who is the executive assistant for the Office of the Superintendent and Board of Directors. Navarro said that librarians have “discretion” as to what books are available for students. She also told Snyder that Gender Queer was not “currently in the Columbia River collection.”
“So they didn’t even admit guilt and apologize for the extremely inappropriate book that who knows how many students have had access to,” Snyder told Clark County Today. “I have screenshots that show the book absolutely was available. I’m happy they’ve removed it (which I’ve confirmed on the website as well), but they’re not even acknowledging wrongdoing.”
Snyder said she hopes that parents are remaining vigilant regarding what their children have the potential to view, read, or be told at their schools. “It’s concerning,” Snyder said. “If parents don’t know exactly what books to look for, they have no way of knowing just how many pornographic or equally disturbing books are available for their children to check out, or even just peruse while at school. We as parents need to be paying very close attention.”
Clark County Today sent several questions via email to a Vancouver Public Schools official and this statement was offered in response: “Decisions about library collections are outlined in our district procedure 2021P. Each school library has unique selections in their collections, and each collection evolves as titles are added and removed. There are processes outlined in the district procedure for the maintenance of collections and a process to challenge titles within those collections.’’
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