Tom Brennan

That two-year-old book Gender Queer is rattling cages all over the world and Alaska is no exception.

Though it has been around for awhile, critics with large audiences, educators and many others with related responsibilities are just now becoming aware of the book and its content.

Among those joining the big reaction is the Anchorage School District which has ordered Gender Queer removed from school and district libraries. It has also been banned from schools in Virginia, Florida, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Ohio, Washington and Texas.

Those decisions are no surprise given that the book focuses on homosexuality, which is pretty much a no-no subject for school curricula and many public forums.

The book contains discussion and illustrations of same-sex activity. And that has the critics up in arms. The furore is understandable since the subject can inflame people sensitive to such things. But it is a reminder that public discussion and decisions are being influenced negatively on topics that our young people need to understand and on which they could use guidance.

The young need information and guidance on the subject since it is one they will inevitably encounter in their lives, either in school, in play areas or in their private lives away from potential discovery by adults. The kids may encounter the need for such information when it is offered by others or they may experience urges and confusing bodily signals when they enter their lives spontaneously.

Gender Queer was written by Maia Kobabe, a California woman who holds a master of fine arts from the California College of the Arts. She is also a self-publishing illustrator who uses her artwork to illustrate some of the books she has written and launched in the marketplace over the last 10 years.

Kobabe considers herself nonbinary, a term many use for people who are not committed to preference for either sex, their own by birth or those of the opposite sex. For the record I am a straight male who has been married to the same woman for 55 years.

She and I came here from Massachusetts where we both worked for the same newspaper, The Worcester Telegram. These are different times and the nature of editorial decisions has changed but I am certain that my editor there would have had a fainting spell if I had ever turned in a review for a book named Gender Queer.

Even with the changes from the passage of time I suspect that if anyone at The Telegram (now known as The Telegram & Gazette) turned in a review of a book with such a name these days, the smoke would fly.

Though I haven’t checked in advance with my editor here, I don’t know for sure but I suspect The Frontiersman will have no compunctions about publishing a column about such a book. This is Alaska and we in the Far North have a much different way of looking at things than they do in Massachusetts, where religious convictions sometimes influence editing and publishing decisions.

There are many reasons why I will never return to live in Massachusetts. The fact that my wife talked me into coming here and would send me back alone is just one of them,

Alaska has been my home for 55 years and always will be.

Tom Brennan is an Anchorage columnist and author of six books. He was a reporter/columnist for The Anchorage Times and an editor and columnist at The Voice of The Times.

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