Review Committee Recommendation - Gender Queer: A Memoir

The committee identified reasons for retaining access to the book in libraries serving high school students

Subject: Review Committee Recommendation, Gender Queer: A Memoir

Per Regulation 3009, a committee made up of a high school administrator, two high school librarians, two parents of high school students, two high school students, and a specialist from the Office of Equity and Family Engagement met on October 26, 2021 to review the request for reconsideration of the book Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe and its inclusion in FCPS libraries.

Each member read the book in its entirety and reviewed the submitted reconsideration forms and packet of information provided. After deliberate and lengthy discussions on the potential merits and concerns of the book as a literary work and the potential merits and concerns associated with retaining or removing access to the book from students using school libraries, the committee unanimously recommends that Gender Queer: A Memoir remain in FCPS libraries that serve high school students.

The committee reviewed and discussed the concerns in detail and determined that this book constitutes literary work and that access to the book in school libraries is appropriate. 

The committee related the following merits of the book as a work of literature:

  • The book is a well-written, scientifically based narrative of one person’s journey with gender identity that contains information and perspective that is not widely represented. This depiction includes the difficulties nonbinary and asexual individuals may face. The book has literary value in its structure, voice, and themes and has won literary awards.
  • Students with a related experience will feel affirmed and others can gain understanding and empathy. 
  • The resources referenced in the book provide access to additional, reliable information.
  • The book neither depicts nor describes pedophilia. 

In response to the complaint, the committee spent considerable time reviewing Code of Virginia §18.2-376. The committee also reviewed other statutes including, §18.2-372, “Obscene” defined; §18.2-391, Advertising, etc., obscene items, exhibitions or performances, and an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia. 

 “The word ‘obscene’ where it appears in this article shall mean that which, considered as a whole, has as its dominant theme or purpose an appeal to the prurient interest in sex, that is, a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, excretory functions or products thereof or sadomasochistic abuse, and which goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor in description or representation of such matters and which, taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” (§18.2-372).

"’Harmful to juveniles’ means that quality of any description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse, when it (a) predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful or morbid interest of juveniles, (b) is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for juveniles, and (c) is, when taken as a whole, lacking in serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for juveniles.” (§18.2-390 (6)).

 After deliberations regarding the Code of Virginia and its relationship to this book, the committee identified the following reasons for retaining access to the book in libraries serving high school students:

  • The images contained within the book do not qualify as obscene per the definition in the Code of Virginia §18.2-372. The book is also not “harmful to juveniles” as defined in §18.2-390 (6). 
  • Code of Virginia § 18.2-376, advertising obscene items, exhibitions or performances is inapplicable. (It is important to note that according to the Code of Virginia §18.2-391.1, nothing contained in Article 6, Prohibited Sales and Loans to Juveniles, shall be construed to apply to “[t]he purchase, distribution, exhibition, or loan of any work of art, book, magazine, or other printed or manuscript material by any accredited museum, library, school, or institution of higher education.”)
  • The book aligns with FCPS Regulation 2603 supporting members of the gender-expansive community and affirming individuals in their identity. 
  • The book was appropriately added to library collections in accordance with FCPS Regulation 3013, School Library Collection Development.
  • The book aligns with FCPS School Library Regulation 3012 to curate collections that represent the diversity found in society and school communities. Additionally, Regulation 3012 outlines the operation of school libraries and access to library books based on student choice.

To comply with the Regulation 3009 timeline, a decision should be communicated to those who submitted reconsideration forms on or before December 3, 2021. Please let me know if you would like to discuss the committee recommendation or need additional information.