As cities and counties around the country become targets of anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing campaigns, a community library in New Jersey has become the latest to cave partially to pressure from extremists.
An American bestseller, the memoir Gender Queer, a book for young people, has been moved to the adult section of the Cedar Grove Public Library. Its removal from the section sparked intense debate, northjersey.com reports.
One of the world’s largest retailers, Barnes & Noble, considers Maia Kobabe’s memoir an appropriate choice for teenagers. It is a frank depiction of the author’s journey through adolescence and adulthood. Local LGBTQ+ advocates argue that removing it from the young adult section is censorship.
In an open letter, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey urged Cedar Grove Library Director Catherine Wolverton to keep the illustrated memoir on her shelves and to “stand up for the First Amendment.”
“Recent attempts to restrict or remove books like Gender Queer from library shelves appear to be part of a dangerous nationwide trend in which local officials and library administrators have succumbed to pressure from politicized advocacy groups to allow censorship in its libraries by denying community members - and young people in particular access to important literature and information about LGBTQIA+ people, human sexuality, racism, and other topics that everyone has the right to access,” the organization wrote.
The word “banned” was never said by any Cedar Grove Library Board member or the township’s administrative staff, according to the mayor, Kerry Peterson., northjersey.com reports.
In June, people called Cedar Grove leaders concerned about Gender Queer appearing at the front of a Pride Month display at the library. A library staff member removed the book, and the memoir was moved from the young adult section to the adult shelves by Wolverton.
Out Montclair Executive Director Peter Yacobellis said hundreds of young adult books have themes similar to Gender Queer but in a heterosexual context. These books remain in the young adult section.
Young people can access the adult section, but Yacobellis worries they’ll be shamed if they wander through looking for the memoir.
“Cedar Grove’s decision is basically saying queer content deserves a higher-level age restriction than heterosexual content,” Yacobellis said. “It’s the very thing that stings, that makes my community feel shame, makes my community feel like there’s something wrong with us. It all starts with how the community, how our government, how our families, how our institutions treat us.”