“To the EHS librarians, thank you for making me feel seen”

To the Editor:

Recently, concerns were raised over a graphic novel from the EHS library called Genderqueer. The novel in question is a memoir by Maia Kobabe, written about eir experiences with gender and sexuality. It has been banned by schools in Virginia, Florida, Rhode Island, Ohio, and more. As a response to the people campaigning against the book, I felt the need to share my own experiences.

I am a bisexual student at Essex High School. I am not out, and it makes me even more hesitant to be open about my sexuality after seeing members of my community act so openly against LGBTQ+ representation, which is why I’ve chosen to remain anonymous.

Libraries have always been my safe place. In elementary school, when I was bored I went to the library and read some of the hardest books I could get my hands on. When I was in 5th grade, reading made it easier for me to switch to a new school because I was excited to explore a brand new library. In middle school, I spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to read as many books as possible: mythology, YA, nonfiction, classical literature. Beyond reading, I could count on the library to be a quiet place for me to complete my work, or even just solve a puzzle for a little while. Nobody could be mean to me in the library.

The first time I remember having questions about my sexuality, I was in 5th grade, but I didn’t seriously start questioning my identity until 8th grade. For me, that was terrifying. I didn’t know how to feel about that or who to ask. I spent months agonizing over why I was having crushes on girls, when I had always had crushes on boys. I knew my parents would probably be accepting, but I had no idea how to tell them. One thing that helped me become more confident in who I am was reading books that feature queer characters. Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins; Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston; Carry On by Rainbow Rowell; The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley; some of Rick Riordan’s books; Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda; and so many more. Being able to read about characters with different sexualities was critical for me, and made me realize that being bisexual was an actual thing that was completely valid. I wasn’t confused, indecisive, or going to hell simply for liking guys and girls. Many of the books that made me feel more at home in my own skin came from the Essex High School library. Without knowing it, the librarians have made me feel so much more comfortable at my school. Their inclusion of stories that feature non-heteronormative couples has made a huge difference in my life. It was particularly comforting that they featured those books alongside others, without making a huge deal over the fact that they feature LGBTQ+ characters.

I am not some scary person or misguided child. I am a student athlete, a club participant, a good student, an advocate, and a musician, among so many other things. I just also happen to be bisexual. Representation of LGBTQ+ characters in movies, tv shows, and books has helped me to understand that there is nothing wrong with my sexuality and it is  just one part of myself.

So, to the EHS librarians, thank you for making me feel seen.

To the people lodging complaints about the book, please try to understand that queer students need to see themselves and their struggles reflected in their literature. Trying to get this books removed only further alienates openly out students, and it makes closeted students like me even more afraid to come out.

To the school board, I urge you to support the EHS library and LGBTQ+ representation, which is critical for students like me.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I hope it has further impressed upon you the importance of this issue, and I ask that you please keep books like Genderqueer in rotation.


An EHS Student