Texas Republicans Demand School Districts Ban 'Pornographic' LGBT Books

A group of Republican state lawmakers in Texas are calling on school districts to pledge they will not buy books from vendors that have supplied what they describe as a "pornographic" LGBTQ graphic novel, and to remove certain materials already on school campuses.

State Representative Jared Patterson led 26 other Republicans in a letter on Wednesday urging Texas school districts not to purchase from or partner with firms that have supplied "obscene" materials, singling out LGBTQ coming-of-age story Gender Queer: A Memoir, by non-binary author Maia Kobabe.

The move comes amid efforts across the country to ban or restrict access to certain books in classrooms, with Gender Queer becoming a particular focus of criticism because it contains some illustrations depicting oral sex.

The Republicans' letter said Gender Queer "graphically illustrates child pornography" and said it was regrettable that the book was available in some public school libraries.

"Sadly, we don't know how many children across Texas have been exposed to this obscene material, or others like it," the lawmakers wrote.

Gender Queer deals with Maia Kobabe's experiences growing up and grappling with identifying as gay, bisexual or asexual. Kobabe identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns "e/em/eir."

In their letter, the Republican lawmakers said "preventing graphic materials from entering our public schools will be a multi-level process."

"Both local districts and the Legislature will be working diligently on policies to prevent such books from being allowed on campus in the future," the letter said.

"However, we also acknowledge school districts have a lot [of] power in the market when purchasing books and that if we stand together against explicit materials for children, book vendors will be forced to adjust," it said.

The lawmakers asked the school districts to sign a pledge attached to the letter "stating that they will not knowingly partner with, purchase from, or associate in any way with, a vendor who has supplied pornographic materials nor allow pornographic materials to remain on campus."

Patterson and his colleagues asked the school districts to take the pledge "on behalf of every Texas child in public schools who doesn't deserve to be exposed to obscene materials."

Gender Queer has previously been a target of criticism and bans. In October, 2021, Kobabe wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post defending the graphic novel as it became the subject of intense scrutiny in Virginia and was banned by the Fairfax County school board.

"Queer youth are often forced to look outside their own homes, and outside the education system, to find information on who they are," Kobabe wrote.

"Removing or restricting queer books in libraries and schools is like cutting a lifeline for queer youth, who might not yet even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies and health."

Newsweek has asked Representative Jared Patterson for comment.

A School Library in Connecticut
Bookshelves of library books stand idle in the media center of the Newfield Elementary School on August 31, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Some Republican lawmakers in Texas have called on school districts not to do business with vendors supplying "pornographic" materials. John Moore/Getty Images