A school district in Texas has banned all books that mention the state of gender fluidity.
During a contentious meeting on Monday, the Keller Independent School District board voted to ban any book that mentions gender-fluid characters or descriptions and discussions of the term from all schools.
Library books that mention gender fluidity were banned in a 4-3 vote by the conservative-majority school board.
Public comment lasted nearly three hours before the board made its decision. More than 70 speakers shared their opinions, with both sides about equally represented.
Laney Hawes is a concerned mother of four children who served on the district’s committee that previously reviewed books that community members had flagged for review. In August, when the Keller ISD abruptly ripped previously approved books from shelves, she told The Advocate that what was happening in her Texas community resulted from a manufactured culture war.
Hawes told The Advocate Tuesday that she and other supporters of LGBTQ+ students in her Texas community are devastated but not surprised.
“Sitting in the school board meeting last night and hearing how much anti-trans and anti-queer rhetoric spewed was astounding,” Hawes said. “I knew this kind of hate existed, [and] I thought I was prepared to hear it. But I wasn’t. To hear it all in a packed room full of my neighbors quoting the Scriptures to justify their hate was deeply unsettling and heartbreaking.”
She said she is raising four children in an increasingly unwelcoming community.
In August, Hawes said that what was happening was a political overreach by several well-funded outside actors who had hijacked the school board.
She said that Keller and neighboring Southlake were at the center of a conservative culture war that was well-funded by outside groups tied to a local cell phone provider.
Hawes made a powerful and emotional speech at Monday’s board meeting in which she struck a defiant tone.
Texas activist Christopher Tackett posted a clip of Hawes’s speech on Twitter.
“You’re not just banning college-level books about gender theory. You’re banning books that simply depict trans and nonbinary characters,” she said. “You are so afraid of ideas that you’re banning books. Your book ban will not erase these kids in real life, but it will tell the trans and nonbinary students in this district that the people in charge hate them and that you do not want them to exist.”
Becoming emotional, she continued, “But here’s the thing: your children are going to grow up, and they’re going to sit next to trans and nonbinary kids in class. And they’re going to come to know how wonderful they are. They will love, and they will accept them, and then they’ll realize that you — their parents — are trying to erase these people. And then your kids are gonna go to history class, and there they’ll learn about the kinds of people that try to erase whole groups of people, and they’re going to realize who you are.”
Hawes said supporters of LGBTQ+ students and the community are undeterred by the board’s decision.
“We’re in touch with a few legal organizations who are looking to help us take our district to court,” she said. “These policies are clearly violating our children’s constitutional rights. We aren’t stopping.”
While claiming ostensibly to make schools safer for children, the board also debated a controversial proposal that would arm teachers.
Hawes says the arming proposal is just another example of conservatives’ culture of fear.
“I think these people live in constant fear,” she says. “Fear of ideas. Fear of people. Fear of anything that doesn’t look, act, & believe exactly like them.”
The board will vote on whether to put guns into Keller ISD schools during its regular meeting on December 12.