TIME spoke to Gender Queer author and illustrator Maia Kobabe about eir work, the efforts to restrict access to eir writing, and what ey make of the current cultural moment.
Captain, your signal’s breaking up. I’m getting a lot of static. Must be solar flares. That, or dangerously high levels of pretension caused by the proximity of Ms Kobabe, an activist and supposedly ungendered being, complete with boutique pronouns, and TIME’s Madeleine Carlisle. Given what follows, the words “restrict access” - and the subsequent claims of persecution - may seem a tad misleading. Ms Kobabe’s book, we learn, explores,
Questions around how to introduce nonbinary pronouns to people who might not be familiar them. And also how to be a role model as a nonbinary adult, especially in a setting like a classroom.
You see, our aspiring role model has produced a book combining hardcore self-involvement with dysmorphic cartoon pornography, with the results being made available to schoolchildren, including 11-year-olds. As one might imagine, there have been some, shall we say, reservations regarding whether a book of this kind should be circulated among children without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Readers may recall scenes in which parents attempted to read aloud passages from the book among fellow adults at school board meetings, typically resulting in reprimands, the shutting off of microphones, and threats of physical removal. Apparently, “vagina slime,” fellatio and “strap-on hotness” are inappropriate topics for adult discussion, even as an attempt to specify a problem, but totally fine for kids. Who apparently need to know about the joys of masturbating while driving.
Ms Kobabe tells us that parents’ concerns about the book being distributed among children are merely, “a very organised effort to erase trans and queer and nonbinary voices from the public sphere.” A wickedness indulged in only by those “looking for books to complain about.” This, we’re informed, is part of “a very dangerous and upsetting effort to make it harder for trans people and nonbinary and queer people to live.” And not, as seems more likely, a reluctance among parents to have their 11-year-olds exposed to somewhat outré pornographic material.
Evidently inspired by both the gushing of leftist librarians and the disapproval of countless parents, Ms Kobabe is close to finishing a second book on much the same theme, one aimed at “younger readers,” i.e., middle-schoolers.
Update, via the comments:
In the above and other interviews, Ms Kobabe frames the episode as one of bigoted and hateful conservative parents “targeting” books that “happen to feature LGBTQ characters,” and driven by “a very dangerous and upsetting effort to make it harder for trans people and nonbinary and queer people to live.” She implies that complaints were based on ignorance, on parents not having read the book, and of course on hatred. The parents, we’re told, were “cutting a lifeline for queer youth,” presumably out of some inexplicable malice.
Curiously, Ms Kobabe is not challenged on these claims, at all, despite the particulars of the parents’ grievances being readily available and repeated many times. That a number of those complaining about the book being unsuitable were themselves gay somehow escapes mention. Presumably, these details would not suit Ms Kobabe’s self-flattering persecution narrative.
Note too the conceit that, despite the rapid embrace by educators of transgender ideology, parents couldn’t possibly have anything to worry about. It seems to me that the eagerness of activists to breach the customary boundaries between adults and children - and to circumvent parents, who will be left to pick up the pieces of any unhappy consequences - is not only an extraordinarily arrogant overreach, but also an indicator that its proponents are quite unsavoury, possibly unwell.
And when middle-school librarians believe that 11-year-olds need to know how to whore themselves, to fund surgical mutilations and thereby approximate the opposite sex – as if raising a dysmorphic “sex worker” is what every parent dreams of – then some widening of the eyes seems in order.
Alas, there will be no Ephemera tomorrow, but feel free to throw together your own collection of oddments in the comments.