The creator behind the controversial book "Gender Queer: A Memoir," a book that has prompted backlash from parents and actions from schools to remove the book from its shelves, is defending the content depicted, arguing the graphic illustrations are "integral" and that "we need to reduce the shame" regarding sex among teenagers.
Author Maia Kobabe's book "is a de facto guide on gender identity that grapples with the hardships of coming out, the confusion of adolescent crushes and the trauma of being nonbinary in a society that largely sees gender as limited to two categories: man and woman," wrote NBC News.
The book features depictions of sexual activities, with many of those opposed to the book pointing to an illustration depicting a 14-year-old Kobabe fantasizing about an older man touching the penis of an apparently younger man or boy. NBC said that the drawing was based on "an ancient Greek pottery cup that contains an erotic sketching of 'a courting scene.'"
While Kobabe, who goes by the gender-neutral pronouns e, em and eir, acknowledged that the some of the books may not be appropriate for an elementary school audience, Kobabe noted that the book's candid accounts are "integral" to showcasing the experience of growing up outside of gender and sexuality norms, adding that "we need to reduce the shame" about sex among teenagers.
"It's very hard to hear people say 'This book is not appropriate to young people' when it's like, I was a young person for whom this book would have been not only appropriate, but so, so necessary," Kobabe told NBC News.
"There are a lot of people who are questioning their gender, questioning their sexuality and having a real hard time finding honest accounts of somebody else on the same journey. There are people for whom this is vital and for whom this could maybe even be lifesaving," Kobabe continued.
The depictions inside Kobabe's book has sparked outrage amongst parents, many of whom have pushed school districts to remove the book from their library shelves.
The book has been pulled from the shelves of Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, Brevard Public Schools in Florida, and Wake County Public Libraries in North Carolina, with parents in New Jersey also challenging the book's place in libraries.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster were also outraged by the book and others, demanding investigations into how "obscene" and "pornographic" books ended up on school shelves.
Despite the backlash, Kobabe said that they have received an outpouring of support from readers.
"I've been receiving almost weekly, and sometimes more than weekly, emails from readers thanking me for writing it, telling me how much it meant to them, saying it helped them understand themselves or that they gave it to a parent or a child or a friend or a partner, and that it helped their loved one understand them more, and that it opened up conversations they had not previously been able to have," Kobabe said.