Debate continues over graphic novel 'Gender Queer' in Antioch District 117

The debate over a graphic novel that some say is a valuable resource for students and others contend should be removed resurfaced Thursday during the Antioch Community High School District 117 board meeting.

At issue is "Gender Queer: A Memoir," which depicts 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 in Downers Grove-based Community High School District 99.

Book supporters regard the movements as dangerous to free speech and thought. They contend the push to remove books limits educational options and marginalizes LGBTQ students.

After some parents expressed concerns, the district, in what was termed a compromise, removed the book from the shelves at Lakes and Antioch high schools and placed it at the library circulation desks, where students have to ask to check it out.

The controversy has been percolating 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 placing the book behind the counter, you are telling these students that they need to hide, they need to change themselves to make others more comfortable," said Krista Schumow, who has a son at Lakes.

"You came up with a 'compromise' that pleased only one group. ... That is caving, and all of your LGBTQ students can feel it."

A group called Indivisible Western Lake County Community had called for members to turn out Thursday "to support our schools and the books they select for their libraries."

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

"It's apparent to us their particular agenda is to keep this material available to kids, and we just don't agree with that," Chris DiLullo, an active member of the group, said earlier Thursday.

"Our problem with it is it's available," he said. "It's very graphic. It's pornographic."

After the December board meeting, the district convened its Book Review Committee, which found the book had won several awards, was not pornographic by definition and should remain part of the schools' library collection. The committee also found the book was a valuable resource to support the LGBTQ population and its availability supports equity efforts.

An online petition describes "Gender Queer" as a "powerful book that needs to be put back on the shelf to teach teenagers that being transgender is valid."

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

"I created this petition because, as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I felt that this decision should have more awareness," Neveu told the board.

  Dozens of people attended Thursday night's Antioch Community High School District 117 board meeting, which included public debate over the book "Gender Queer." Mick Zawislak/
"Gender Queer" has been targeted for removal from school libraries across the country. The graphic novel depicts author Maia Kobabe's journey involving sexual orientation and gender identity. Associated Press file photo
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