Is the most banned book in US about to be banned here?
Exclusive: A gender identity memoir aimed at teenage readers has been referred by police to the Australian Classification Board (ACB) after a complaint made by a conservative activist saw the book removed from the shelves of a Queensland library.
Following a four-day investigation, Queensland Police confirmed to 9news.com.au they flagged Gender Queer: A Memoir to the ACB on Thursday for review.
Gender Queer, which includes illustrations of masturbation, sex toys and oral sex, is written by Maia Kobabe, a nonbinary author from California. The 2019 graphic novel is centred on coming out to friends and family.
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The 239-page memoir is the most commonly banned book in the United States, according to the American Library Association.
Kobabe and supporters of the novel insist it can help confused teens identify, by providing a language for the trans and nonbinary community, and unpacking the feelings young people may be experiencing.
The graphic novel is available to loan at a number of libraries across the country, including Logan Central Library.
9news.com.au understands that after conservative activist Bernard Gaynor, 43, made a complaint to Logan City Council, the book was removed from shelves but remained available to borrow for anyone who requested it.
Gaynor's complaint is that he believes the book, which has won multiple literary awards, is pornographic.
He said one scene which shows a sexual fantasy involving a man and boy, inspired by Plato's The Symposium, is evidence the book contains child abuse material.
Gaynor contacted police on Saturday, March 4, lodging official complaints about Gender Queer and four other titles at the library, which he claimed breached the criminal code in relation to child exploitation material and exposing children to sexually explicit material.
Logan council said it did not wish to make any comment on the book, or the complaint from Gaynor, other than it is "reviewing the matter".
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Until the book was referred by police, the Classification Board confirmed to 9news.com.au it had not classified Gender Queer, nor had it received any requests to review it.
The agency has the power to censor, restrict and ban films, literature and other content.
"Generally publications do not need to be classified before being made available in libraries," a spokesperson said.
"The only publications that are required to be submitted to the Classification Board to be classified are those that would contain content that may be restricted to adults or refused classification."
Iraq war veteran Gaynor was sacked as an Australian Defence Force reservist in 2013 for making anti-gay comments on social media, later winning an appeal against the decision, only for the court to then overturn that ruling.
Gaynor said his police complaint has nothing to do with the gender identity debate.
"The book is highly pornographic," he said. "And that alone is enough to have it removed from the library, regardless of what people might think about the book's content."
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Speaking on a podcast with US organisation GLAAD last year, Kobabe said the memoir was about figuring out who you are.
"I started questioning these topics when I was like 12, 13 years old, and then didn't come out as nonbinary until I was 25," Kobabe said.
"Having a book like this, or any book that explored nonbinary identity, would have probably taken 10 years of confusion and uncertainty out of my life."
Kobabe said sweeping bans of the book in the US felt like a "generalised attack on queer and trans narratives" that the memoir was caught up in.
"My book is uniquely vulnerable because it is a comic, and because people can very quickly flip open to one or two images that they don't agree with or make them uncomfortable, and share those out of context on social media."
9news.com.au has seen correspondence from Logan council stating the council was not breaking any laws by stocking Gender Queer, because there had been no ruling or review from ACB dictating otherwise.
There are five copies of Gender Queer held in various libraries across Logan.
Logan Central Library was the only library to stock the book in its Young Adult Fiction section, according to the library website.
The four other libraries have the book in the Biography section.
As well as Gender Queer, Gaynor said he also flagged to police concerns over other titles in the library, including Japanese-style manga graphic novels.
He has started a petition to remove Kobabe's book, which currently has over 1000 signatures.
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9news.com.au has contacted literary agent Wernick & Pratt, who represents Kobabe, for comment.
On its website, Simon & Schuster, the book's distributor, said Kobabe's memoir describes "what it means to be nonbinary and asexual" and "a useful and touching guide on gender identity … for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere".
If you need help contact Lifeline – 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue – 1800 51 23 48 or Kids Helpline (1800 55 18 00) which operates 24/7 for children and young people ages five to 25.
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