Critics accuse LGBTQ books of promoting pedophilia in the Virginia school system

FAIRFAX, Va. — A leader of a group that advocates for LGBTQ students in the public school system in Fairfax County, Va., expressed concern this week that ill-informed parents and media were incorrectly reporting that two controversial LGBTQ-themed books available in high school libraries promoted pedophilia.

Following strong objections to the books by parents at a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board, Fairfax County Public Schools officials announced they had removed the books from school libraries to reevaluate their suitability for secondary school students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain graphic descriptions of sexual acts. But supporters and opponents of the books strongly disagree on whether those depicted as having sex in the books include children having sex with an adult.

At the Fairfax School Board meeting last week, Stacy Langton, a parent of two students attending a Fairfax County high school, detailed a passage from “Lawn Boy” in which the book’s main character tells a friend that when he was 10, he engaged in oral sex with “the real estate guy” named Doug.

Langston told school board members and many parents attending the meeting that the “Lawn Boy” passage “describes a fourth-grade boy performing oral sex on a grown man.” She said the other book, “Gender Queer,” “has detailed illustrations of a man having sex with a boy.”

Robert Rigby, co-chair of Fairfax Public Schools Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy group, strongly disputes Langston’s claims that the books depict sex between adults and children.

“I’ve read them cover to cover and it’s just not true,” he told The Washington Blade.

The Blade was unable to immediately obtain copies of the two books, which were sold out at local bookstores. Rigby, however, provided Blade with excerpts from other passages of “Lawn Boy” which he said Langston and others attacking the book either did not read or chose to ignore. These passages make it clear that the person the fourth year boy had sex with was another boy his own age who took place years earlier and there are no passages in “Lawn Boy” where adults have sex with children.

One of the passages from the book that naysayers didn’t read at the school board meeting includes the book’s main character, Mike Munoz, recounting how he loved going to a Bible study class at age 10. years old because the boy he later says he had sex with was also attending the class.

“In total, there were eight or nine other kids, including my hero, Doug Goble, long before he became Kitsap County’s hottest real estate agent.”

Rigby said he and others who have read and viewed the “Gender Queer” artwork do not believe the comic-book-style drawings depicting sex acts include a child having sex with an adult, as claimed. book opponents.

“The published scene is a scene between genderqueer adults in their early twenties,” Rigby said. “Someone pointed to an imaginary scene of a Greek vase in which some people brought up the idea of ​​the ‘pederasty’ of ancient Greece,” said Rigby, who added that the book could not be interpreted as showing an adult having sex with a minor. “Instead, a genderqueer person imagines themselves to be a genderqueer person in the scene,” he said.

“Our position on the books controversy is that it’s not so much about the books,” Rigby said. “This is an effort to continue the schools crisis over the next few months by targeting libraries and LGBTQIA+ people,” with the aim, he said, of increasing conservative turnout in the election of the governor of Virginia in November. “We’ve seen this movie before in Fairfax,” he said.

Langston, the parent who spoke at the school board meeting, said she and other parents consider both books a form of pornography because they include explicit descriptions or illustrations of sexual acts, no matter who engages in these acts.

“I’m not one of those militant or disgruntled mothers,” she said in an interview with Fox News. “It’s not about being anti-gay, anti-trans or whatever. I would have been there and said every word I said if it was the depiction of a heterosexual couple with heterosexual acts – porn is porn and I don’t care about sex,” she told Fox News.

“And besides, it’s even worse that the pornography involves children,” she said. “It takes it to a whole new level of evil.”

Fairfax Public Schools released a statement announcing that they had suspended circulation of the two books in their libraries.

“FCPS is in the process of convening two committees comprised of staff, students, and parents led by our Library Services Coordinator to assess the suitability of the two texts for inclusion in our high school libraries,” the statement said. “The committees’ recommendation will be submitted to the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services who will make a final decision on whether FCPS continues to provide access to these books in our high school libraries,” it says.

Both books received the American Library Association’s Alex Prize, an annual award that recognizes “ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 to 18,” according to The Associated Press.

A review from Book Browse publication describes “Lawn Boy” as a “funny, angry, touching and ultimately deeply inspiring novel” that takes the reader “into the heart and mind of a young man on a journey to discover himself, a search to find the secret to realizing the American dream of happiness and prosperity.

A review by the San Francisco-based Cartoon Art Museum describes “Gender Queer” as an “intensely cathartic autobiography” by author Maia Kobabe that recounts a “journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of teenage crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society. The review says the book, which begins as a way for the author to explain what it means to be non-binary and asexual, becomes more than a simple personal story.

“It’s a helpful and touching guide to gender identity – what it means and how to think about it – for advocates, friends and humans everywhere.”

Rigby and Fairfax County School Board member Karl Frisch, who is gay, said they had become the target of hostile social media posts by opponents of the two books. The Associated Press reported that Frisch “offered some kind of defense” for the two books in a Twitter message he posted after the school board meeting where the topic of the books came up.

He said, “Nothing will disrupt our board’s commitment to LGBTQIA+ students, families and staff. Nothing,” the AP quoted its post as saying. But the AP said he was not explicit about whether his tweet referred to the attacks on the two books and he declined to comment when contacted by the AP.

“The last 36 hours have been surreal,” Frisch said in another social media post. Led by a local, right-wing, anti-school lawyer who claimed I was advocating for pornography and perversion, I received nearly 1,000 comments, emails, voicemails, etc. from all over the world attacking me like some kind of child predator,” he wrote.

Jeremy S. McLain