UNION — The regional school board will read a book before deciding whether to keep it in the Medomak Valley High School library or to remove it as a Waldoboro resident requested.

The RSU 40 Board will meet again Thursday, Oct. 20 where the issue of whether to ban “Gender Queer” is expected to be decided.

The district received copies of the book on Sept. 15 and they were distributed to board members so they can read it before the Oct. 20 meeting.

The Board review is the next step in the appeal process. Superintendent Steve Nolan detailed the history of the objection to the book. There were Nobleboro residents who asked in October 2021 to have “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison removed.

Nolan said he followed the district’s policy when a book is challenged. He appointed a committee that reviewed the book and made a report to him which led him to decide to keep the book in the library. A Waldoboro resident, who is not a parent of a student in the district, appealed that decision in June. Nobleboro is not in the school district but Waldoboro is.

The superintendent said that the next step is for the Board to review the book. Copies were ordered but the original vendor was not able to fill the order and a different vendor was able to get copies to the district Thursday.

The book is not required reading in any class but is available in the library.

“Gender Queer” has won the Alex Award as well as the Stonewall Book Award. There are two copies of this book in the high school library, and they had been checked out a total of five times as of that day, Nolan said at the May 5 meeting.

Nolan explained in May these books were carefully selected as part of the district policy requiring a variety of material, and were also reviewed at the time of purchase.

At the May Board meeting, student representative Owen Webber said he had sent a survey to his fellow students, and 75% of all responses were against book banning and censorship. Webber said responses to his survey also indicated his peers wanted to learn about history and about LGBTQ issues.

Two people spoke out during the public comment session of the Sept. 15 meeting, seeking to have the book removed. One of the speakers said the book is pornographic and deals with pedophilia. The removal would protect the students, the woman said.

“Gender Queer” has been a target of groups across the country.

The New York Times wrote an article on the book in May. The following is an excerpt of that article.

“Coming out as bisexual in high school had been relatively easy: Maia Kobabe lived in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area and had supportive classmates and parents. But coming out as nonbinary years later, in 2016, was far more complicated, Kobabe said. The words available failed to describe the experience.”

“There wasn’t this language for it,” said Kobabe, 33, who now uses gender-neutral pronouns and doesn’t identify as male or female. “I just thought, I am wanting to come out as nonbinary, and I am struggling with how to bring this up in conversation with people. And even when I am able to start a conversation about it, I feel like I am never fully able to get my point across.”

So Kobabe, an illustrator who still lives in the Bay Area, started drawing black-and-white comics about wrestling with gender identity, and posting them on Instagram. “People started responding with things like, ‘I had no idea anyone else felt this way, I didn’t even know that there were words for this’,” Kobabe said.

Kobabe expanded the material into a graphic memoir, “Gender Queer,” which was released in 2019 by a comic book and graphic novel publisher. The print run was small — 5,000 copies — and Kobabe worried that the book wouldn’t find much readership.

Then, last year, the book’s frank grappling with gender identity and sexuality began generating headlines around the country. Dozens of schools pulled it from library shelves. Republican officials in North and South Carolina, Texas and Virginia called for the book’s removal, sometimes labeling it “pornographic,” the New York Times article stated.