In December 2021, Wake County Public Libraries removed the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe from library shelves. The community response was robust. Many librarians were vocal in condemning the act of censorship and raising concerns about the process used to remove items from the library's collection. Fifty-five librarians signed a letter demanding the return of the book to shelves and noting that librarians should have been included in the decision-making process.
ACLU of North Carolina members and supporters sent dozens of messages to Wake County Commissioners and library administrators. We also worked with Equality NC and the LGBT Center of Raleigh to raise concerns about the impacts of the act of censorship and highlight resources and support for LGBTQIA+ community members.
Here is the statement jointly issued by the three groups in December 2021:
“Our public libraries should be an information haven for all people in our community, not sites of censorship. The coordinated effort throughout the country to denigrate books that center LGBTQIA+ issues and voices from libraries and schools is harmful and unconstitutional, flying in the face of the fundamental principles of the First Amendment.
“Such efforts are manufactured partisan fights that exploit ignorance and fear, which censorship only serves to increase. This intolerant campaign will deprive people of opportunities to freely explore ideas and learn from the perspectives and lived experiences of others.
“Removing books and resources about and by people who have long been marginalized silences important voices, invalidates people’s lived experiences and demeans entire groups of people. Wake County Public Libraries serve over a million residents, and this act of censorship is a refusal to serve specific community members. Removing resources from library shelves is a decision that should include conversations with staff and community members. It doesn’t appear that was part of the process for removing “Gender Queer.”
“As anti-LGBTQ campaigns and rhetoric grow, so does the mental and physical harm to community members. Actions like this, which further stigmatize difference, contribute to the fact that LGBTQIA+ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Tragically, 2021 is the deadliest year in history for transgender people in the U.S.
"Despite these coordinated attacks on LGBTQIA+ people, North Carolina has a wealth of resources and support centers that protect, affirm, and love LGBTQIA+ communities. Equality NC, the LGBT Center of Raleigh, and the ACLU of North Carolina are committed to supporting equity and ease of access to LGBTQIA+ affirming literature and are working with local bookstores to make inclusive titles featuring LGBTQIA+ characters more available for interested community members.”