Lapeer District Library latest target for campaign against LGBTQ+ book ⋆ Michigan Advance

The book Gender Queer: A Memoir is described by author Maia Kobabe as an “intensely cathartic autobiography” that describes a “journey of self-identity.”

But for Lapeer County Republican Attorney John Miller, the book borders on child pornography.

Caught in the middle is Lapeer District Library director Amy Churchill, who Miller reportedly had threatened to be charged with a four-year felony if the book is not removed from the library’s collection.

However, at a library committee meeting last week, Miller called that his words were taken out of context Bridge Michiganalthough he had specifically spoken about it criminal code for soliciting, seducing or soliciting children for immoral purposes.

“To be clear, my office has never considered criminal charges against library staff,” he said at the meeting, but then added that it was “vitally important to protect children from sexual exploitation and protect the citizens of Educate Lapeer County on compliance with Michigan state laws.”

Miller emphasized that while he doesn’t advocate banning books with LGBTQ+ content, Gender Queer is not a book that he believes belongs in a public library.

“However, books that encourage children to engage in sexual activity when they are underage are not appropriate for a public library where children are encouraged, where children are encouraged to explore,” he said.

But Miller’s attempt to remove the book is the latest in a series of right-wing attacks on public libraries and their ability to provide a wide range of materials to the communities they serve.

Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer was the most banned book of 2021, but it never made the bestseller list. | Photo via the Minnesota Reformer

“It seems like there’s just a fundamental misunderstanding of what the function of a library is,” said Debbie Mikula, executive director of the Michigan Library Association Michigan ahead. “The idea that a library should serve a community and not just a particular point of view.”

“Gender queer” was also at the center of the controversy that led to this last year defunding the Patmos Library in the Jamestown township of Ottawa County. And just like the association back then, says Mikula, they stand in complete solidarity with the Lapeer District Library.

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“Amy Churchill is definitely the heroine of this part of the story,” she said. “She stands strong and steadfast and responds to whatever is put on her plate.”

Churchill said Miller tried to intimidate the library by sending a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on official letterhead from the Lapeer County Attorney’s Office.

“A FOIA is an extremely aggressive way of communicating with someone,” Churchill told Bridge. “Normally you would try to talk to them first.”

It’s just the latest “gender queer” conflict named by the American Library Association’s Office of Freedom of Thought most challenged Library Book in America in 2021.

Kobabe, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns e, em and eir, related According to USA Today, that one key reason was the fact that it’s a graphic novel.

“The fact that it’s an illustrated book makes it more prone to book challenges,” Kobabe said. “It’s very easy for someone to quickly flip through the book and find two or three pages they might disagree with without having to sit down and read the whole book.”

A particular problem with Gender Queer is an illustration of a 14-year-old kobabe fantasizing about an intimate encounter with an older man. It’s based on a scene portrayed on an ancient Greek pottery mug with “a courtship scene”.

Many of those who supported the book at last week’s meeting said the outrage over the book had more to do with its LGBTQ+ subject matter than concerns about protecting children from inappropriate material.

Many have pointed out that there is no objection to the library copy of The Joy of Sex, British author Alex Comfort’s 1972 illustrated handbook of heterosexual positions and techniques.

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“How do you read ‘The Joy of Sex’?” Mikula asked. “How do you read ‘Gender Queer?’ You know, everyone has a different attitude. There are many people who read different things and it is important to them that they have a choice about what they want to read.”

Mikula referred to the so-called “Miller test” when it comes to identifying obscene material. Arising from the decision of the US Supreme Court in 1973 in Miller vs. California, it upheld the right of states to regulate material, but only if it met three criteria; “(a) whether ‘the average person applying contemporary community standards’ would determine that the work as a whole appeals to the lustful interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes sexual conduct in an overtly offensive manner as specifically defined by applicable state law and (c) whether the work as a whole is of no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

“So viewed as a whole, not this one page that could have a description on it,” Mikula said. “Or not that one paragraph. It’s the work as a whole. The prosecutor or others in the room who are upset that this book is in the library; these are personal opinions. But that doesn’t mean the book isn’t something someone in the LGBTQ+ community or a BIPOC or woman needs or wants to read. And that is her choice.”

Mikula says that while a particular book may not be right for one person, it can still be perfect for another.

“Nobody should make such sweeping decisions that take away this process of due diligence from librarians who are highly qualified and have great collections development policies. So it’s important to remember that these are our First Amendment rights. Freedom of thought is a core value of the librarianship profession and a fundamental right in our democratic society.”

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Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, told the Advance that the group “stands by Amy Churchill’s side.

LGBTQ+ community, people of color in the crosshairs of the banned book movement

“Libraries have long been a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ people, especially those who are exploring their sexuality,” Knott added. “Libraries are safe and inclusive spaces where LGBTQ+ people can seek information and stories that reflect who they are and that representation matters.”

The book is currently under review after objections were raised by several local residents. Churchill has 75 days to respond and make a decision. library policy says that a written appeal “may be filed with the Chair of the Library Committee within ten (10) business days of the Library Director’s written decision.”

From then on, the Library Council has 60 days to review any documentation it deems necessary to make a final decision.

“The Library Council serves as the final authority in cases involving the retention or removal of library materials,” the policy states.

The same policy also notes that the responsibility for children’s reading material rests with their parents or guardians.

“Selection must not be hampered solely by the possibility of books accidentally falling into the possession of children,” it says. “The library respects the right of each individual parent to control the selection of his/her children’s reading material. However, the library is not authorized to act in loco parentis (on behalf of the parent). Therefore, a parent who chooses to restrict the materials his/her children select must accompany those children as they use the collection to enforce those restrictions.”



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