Local business owner provides free copies of “Gender Queer” in response to banning

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“Gender Queer” explores Maia Kobabe’s journey to identifying as non-binary and was recently banned from Dirigo High School.

FARMINGTON – Teenagers will have free access to a recently banned LGBTQ+ book thanks to a collaboration between a local business owner and Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe is a graphic novel that explores and explains Kobabe’s childhood and journey toward identifying as non-binary. The book was recently banned from the Dirigo High School library in RSU 56, but is still widely available thanks to Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.

“Gender Queer” has received numerous accolades and awards for its heartfelt storyline. In RSU 56, a committee appointed to reviewing the book, including the DHS Assistant Principal, the Library Media Specialist and a the school’s social worker among others said they felt the book to be ‘…a well-researched and accurate resource that has value to a subset of the population at DHS.'”

“Every single person is different. Every gender is different. Every body is different. If we only read one type of book it makes people feel out of place. [“Gender Queer”] shouldn’t be banned just because it’s different,” Sophie Fahnley said.

Fahnley is a 2022 graduate from Mt. Blue High School who identifies as omni-sexual- a person who is attracted to all genders and non-genders and who “cares about personality, not what’s in somebody’s pants,” Fahnley explained.

Fahnley is also part Micmac and still remembers reading Sherman Alexie’s novel “The Story of a Part-time Indian” her sophomore year of high school.

“It was so cool to learn about life on a reservation. It was one of the only books we were assigned that was different from the ‘white, straight male’ point of view,” she said.

Similarly, Fahnley said the presence of “Gender Queer” in a school library could be life changing for somebody who might be experiencing a similar storyline.

“It’s okay to be weird and different. You shouldn’t stop being who you are just because someone doesn’t want you to be that way. You should feel comfortable with who you are, even if other people aren’t comfortable,” Fahnley said.

Fahnley will be starting at the University of Maine at Machias this week and plans to join the education force helping to support young learners. She’ll be getting her certificate to become an elementary school teacher.

Devaney, Doak & Garrett’s Kenny Brechner echoed Fahnley’s thoughts on comfort, and discomfort.

“The whole point of tolerance is being able to tolerate ideas with which we are uncomfortable. This is one of the many points of a good education,” Brechner said.

After a successful fundraising event launched by Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Brechner will be offering free copies of “Gender Queer” to any teenager, educator, or librarian who requests it. The fundraising campaign raised more than $4,000 and drew significant attention from allies to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Censorship is the oppression of education. It’s always a mistake. Books are inherently the solution,” Brechner said.

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