Majority of Library Book Complaints Target LGBTQ Content | Reserved for subscribers
Two penguins at the Central Park Zoo raising a chick. A child raised by two moms or two dads. A red pencil that is actually blue. An outcast finding his place in a society of birds and rabbits.
These stories have a few things in common.
First, they are all picture books with LGBTQ themes, which children in Victoria can read at the Victoria Public Library.
Second, they were all the subject of complaints from residents of Victoria who objected to their presence in the library.
Forty-six complaints about library books and emails from a resident active in the complaints organization show a tendency for some residents to oppose LGBTQ content in library books, as well as opposition to rebel or liberal messages.
Proponents of removing or moving the books say the focus is on sexually explicit materials and community standards.
While the Victoria Public Library Advisory Board voted against removing all books from the library, similar controversies are still playing out in Victoria City Council and the Victoria County Commissioners Court, where some politicians favor efforts to reduce the library’s collection.
Of the 47 formal requests for re-evaluation of library books, 38 specifically mentioned LGBTQ content, particularly regarding transgender youth, as at least part of the requester’s objection to the book.
For example, complaints targeting “George” and “Look Past,” the two books the library’s advisory board voted to keep at their Wednesday meeting, were two of many complaints that explicitly targeted the books’ LGBTQ content.
“George” is about a transgender girl in fourth grade who wants to play the role of Charlotte in her school’s play adaptation of “Charlotte’s Web.” He received positive Comments reviews and won various price after its publication in 2015. Later editions were titled “Melissa”.
His complaint reads: “I object to the indoctrination of young boys to think like girls, (and) changed the way God created them.”
“Look Past” is a 2016 novel about a transgender boy involved in the murder of a local pastor’s daughter.
His complaint, seeking to move him to an 18+ section of the library, reads: ‘I object to young people in training reading this (and) romanticizing (sic) transgender people (and) lesbians’ .
Barbara Breazeale, the Victoria resident who filed the complaint against ‘Look Past’ and who also contributes to the lawyer’s blog posts, said the reason for her complaint was the book’s sexual content and its negative portrayal of church, not LGBTQ topics, and that it opposes all sexual content in the library, including heterosexual relationships.
A page attached to his form spends considerable time talking about LGBTQ issues.
“I think if a young person reads this they may decide to experiment with homosexual behavior,” she wrote.
Similar rhetoric, including a supposed concern about LGBTQ content “confusing” children, is included in many complaints against books with LGBTQ themes.
Re-evaluation forms used for complaints also include a line for recommending alternative books on the same topic.
When filling it out, complainants often used this line to explicitly recommend Christian or conservative books, or books that did not address the same issues at all.
For example, the form complaining about “The ABCs of LGBT” suggested “A bible and a dictionary would suffice”.
Another suggests ‘Rainbow: A First Book of Pride’, a picture book about LGBTQ pride, should be replaced with ‘All the Colors of the Rainbow’, a book about the science behind actual rainbows. .
Some forms also recommended books by Ellie Klipp, whose work on LGBTQ issues has been positively reviewed by leaders of the American College of Pediatricians, a group considered an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Much of the controversy began this summer, when resident Gay Patek gathered people to review books and submit requests for re-rating after discovering two picture books in the juvenile section that told the story of a transgender child.
In an e-mail apparently sent to members of this informal group on August 4, after the bulk of the complaints had been resolved over the past year, Patek wrote: “I want to clarify that this is not about the LGBTQ community that the lawyer describes. It’s about protecting the innocence of children with age-appropriate and content-appropriate books and activities” about the library’s ongoing materials efforts.
Later in the same email, she wrote that fans’ ongoing conversations with people should include the idea that “this is also about transgender ideology which is extremely harmful to our children, our families and our country”.
Patek did not respond to multiple requests for comment over several days.
Mayor Jeff Bauknight said in a statement to counsel that the library’s current issues being addressed by City Council no longer relate to last year’s complaints, but to “sexually explicit and pornographic books in a section of the VPL which can (be) accessible to minors.
At the city council’s last meeting on August 16, council’s discussion of the library’s collection policy included multiple mentions of the LGBTQ community and a suggestion to put content about “alternative lifestyles” in another section of the library.
Library director Dayna Williams-Capone said she wouldn’t recommend creating a separate section for controversial content, saying it could create a “uneven playing field” for accessing such materials.
Some residents also gave Commissioner Court a list of mostly young adult library books they felt were inappropriate, some of which included LGBTQ themes.
Most of these books had not been the subject of official complaints, although they contained sexually explicit passages as part of their narratives.
Courts generally use the Miller testset by the Supreme Court of the United States, to determine whether something is considered legally obscene.
To be considered obscene, something must violate all three parts of the test, which means that even a sexually explicit book would have to lack literary merit to be considered legally obscene.