UNION — While the decision regarding whether the controversial book will remain in the high school library is not due until Oct. 20, several members of the community spoke out against “Gender Queer” Thursday, Oct. 6. The comments were made by the audience during the public portion of the Regional School Unit 40 Board of Directors meeting at the central office in Union.

Mike Kee of Union said he felt it was his duty to speak against the book as a citizen and a pastor. Kee said having “Gender Queer” in schools would “hyper-sexualize” kids even more than they already were.

Kee also told the board the plus sign in the LGBTQ+ community was “for the pedophiles,” and supporting one part of that community meant supporting pedophiles as well. Voting in favor of “Gender Queer” would be voting in favor of pedophiles, Kee said, and the board would face judgment “in this world or the next one.”

Steve Karp of Waldoboro read a passage from “Gender Queer” where a character daydreams about getting breast cancer as an excuse to remove their breasts. “What a slap in the face to all those women who died fighting breast cancer,” Karp said. Other issues he identified in the book were genital mutilation, explicit images and “the lie about genders.”

Karp then encouraged the Board of Directors to talk with people in their community and discover how they felt about the book.

Mike Thayer of Waldoboro said the book was pornography and depicted images of an adult having sex with a child. This is a felony in the state of Maine, Thayer said. “Does this board condone having pictures of a sexual felony in their library?” he asked.

Chair Danny Jackson said he would need a legal definition before answering that question, but hoped to have an answer at the Oct. 20 meeting on the book.

Thayer then asked if teachers could assign “Gender Queer” as required reading for a book report while it remained in the library.

Superintendent Steve Nolan said the district has a policy allowing parents to object to instruction on sincere belief, and any parent could inform the district they did not want their child reading a specific book.

Susan Szwed of Waldoboro said “Gender Queer” was an important issue to many people, and what they were asking for was not banning the book, but instead removing it from the school library. “We are taxpayers and don’t want this book in schools,” she said.

Szwed also said she disagreed with being called “small-minded” for wanting the book removed. “We are big-minded,” she said. “We want our children to be educated.”

Melody Welch of Rockland addressed the board as well, stating she had children attending the school district. Welch said she was very concerned about “Gender Queer.” She said the book will “open doors that you don’t want open” and would be a distraction from learning. “Gender Queer” is going to divide households, she said, and will allow kids to be bullied.

The book “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe was challenged October 2021 by a resident of RSU 40 who called the graphic novel a “sex book” and said it did not belong in schools. Following a review according to district policy, Superintendent Nolan determined in May 2021 the book would remain in the Medomak Valley High School library.

Nolan said the book has received and been nominated for multiple literary awards and is not required reading for any class. He further said the book was carefully selected as part of the district policy requiring a variety of material and was reviewed at the time of purchase.

Another district resident filed an appeal of Nolan’s decision in June. The appeal means “Gender Queer” is once again on the chopping block, this time at the discretion of the Board of Directors.

The board received copies of the book to read Sept. 15. At the 7 p.m. Oct. 20 meeting, which will be held at Medomak Middle School in Waldoboro because of the large crowd expected to attend, board members will decide if the two copies of “Gender Queer” will remain in the library or be removed.

This is part of a national trend targeting “Gender Queer,” an autobiographical book about a young adult struggling with sexuality and gender identity and told in graphic novel format. The American Library Association named “Gender Queer” the most challenged book of 2021.

The book has been challenged at schools around the state as well. In August the Regional School Unit 56 Board of Directors voted to remove it from the library at Dirigo High School in Dixfield after residents followed a similar appeal process.