'Gender Queer' author admits book is not 'for kids' after Senator's reading goes viral

'I don’t recommend this book for kids,' said author Maia Kobabe.

The author of a book at the center of the public debate around sexually explicit material in K-12 libraries has defended her book as not being “for kids” after a video of Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) reading the book at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing went viral on social media.

Kennedy highlighted the disturbing and sexually explicit material found in public school libraries during the recent hearing. The senator read aloud from two explicit books, including Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, a graphic novel infamous for its explicit depictions of oral sex and discussions of masturbation. The American Library Association reported that “Gender Queer” was the most banned book in American schools in 2021, underscoring deep concerns among parents.

At the time of Kennedy’s reading, Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois’ secretary of state– who opposes removing books with such content from schools– admitted that the words were “disturbing” to hear from Kennedy’s mouth

Sen. Kennedy’s reading from Gender Queer quickly went viral, drawing attention to the inappropriate and controversial material accessible to students. In a subsequent interview with the Washington Post, Kobabe defended the book, arguing it is not intended for “kids” — a statement that raises questions about why the book is found in public school libraries to begin with.

”It keeps being called a children’s book. Senator Kennedy implied it was a children’s book,” said Kobabe. “But I think that’s coming from a misreading of the comic book form. Gender Queer is a comic, and in full color, but that doesn’t mean it’s for children. I originally wrote it for my parents, and then for older teens who were already asking these questions about themselves. I don’t recommend this book for kids.”

On Friday, Campus Reform Higher Education Fellow Nicholas Giordano spoke about Kobabe’s admission that the book is not for kids. 

”When parents show up to school board meetings reading some of this material, the school board shuts them down saying ‘you can’t read that here it’s totally inappropriate, but we’re going to pretend it’s okay for children to read,’” Giordano said. 

”You can’t read these passages on air that’s how explicit it is,” he added.