Debate Continues Over ‘Gender Queer’ Graphic Novel in Antioch’s District 117

Debate over a graphic novel that some believe is a valuable resource for students and others believe should be scrapped resurfaced Thursday at the Antioch Community High School District 117 Board of Trustees meeting.

At issue is “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which describes author Maia Kobabe’s journey involving sexual orientation and gender identity.

The book has been targeted for removal in school districts across the country, including Downers Grove-based Community High School District 99.

Proponents of the book view the moves as dangerous to freedom of speech and thought. They argue that the push to remove the books limits educational options and marginalizes LGBTQ students.

After some parents raised concerns, the district, in what was called a compromise, removed the book from shelves at Lakes and Antioch High Schools and placed it in the library’s checkout desks, where students must ask to check it.

The controversy has been spreading in District 117 since December. About 80 parents, students and observers were at the school board meeting Thursday night to continue the discussion.

Many said the book should be back on the shelves.

“By putting the book behind the counter, you’re telling these students that they need to hide, that they need to change so that other people are more comfortable,” said Krista Schumow, who has a daughter in Lakes. .


“You found a ‘compromise’ that only one group liked. … It’s abandonment, and all of your LGBTQ students can feel it.”

A band called Indivisible Western Lake County Community called on members to come out on Thursday “to support our schools and the books they select for their libraries.”

On the other side, members of a group called Antioch Community Parents Committee again urged council to remove “Gender Queer” from the district.

“It’s obvious to us that their particular goal is to keep this material available to children, and we just don’t agree with that,” Chris DiLullo, an active member of the group, said earlier Thursday.

“Our problem is that he is available,” he said. “It’s very graphic. It’s pornographic.”

After the December board meeting, the district convened its book review committee, which concluded that the book had won several awards, was not pornographic by definition, and should continue to be part of the collection. from the school library. The committee also found that the book was a valuable resource for supporting the LGBTQ population and that its availability supports equity efforts.

A online petition describes “Gender Queer” as a “powerful book that needs to be put back on the shelf to teach teens that being transgender is valid.”

Lia Neveu, a freshman at Lakes, and a few other students started the petition against the decision to put the book behind a counter. Five hundred and twenty-one signed up in just over a week.

“I created this petition because as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I felt this decision should be more conscious,” Neveu told the board.

Irene B. Bowles