Trans children’s book won’t be on Wichita schools’ book shelves

"George." Photo via Google Books.

By Kara Kliewer
Staff Writer

“By saying a book like this doesn't’t belong in school libraries is telling young LGBTQ+ and trans kids that their lives are taboo,” says Brenda Way, Founder and Vice President of the Wichita Transgender and Community Network (WiTCoN).

“George,” the book Way is referencing, is discouraged from being available in Wichita public schools. The Wichita district’s supervisor of library media, Gail Becker, has dubbed the book inappropriate.

The book, published by Scholastic in 2015, tells the story of a child assigned male at birth, and the struggles they are facing in terms of telling family and friends she is female. It is considered appropriate for children eight to 12, despite Becker’s reservations.

The book won a 2016 Children’s Choice Book Award, a Stonewall Book Award for LGBT books and was a finalist for the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award for “middle readers.”  

While librarians can carry the book if they wish, it has not been included on a list of books (William Allen White Children’s Book Award master list) provided to all Wichita elementary schools as books necessary to purchase. However, if schools happen to obtain the book by various, yet to be defined means, they are permitted to carry it.

Thus far, only four of the 57 elementary and K-8 schools in Wichita are carrying the book. Additionally, two middle schools and one high school are carrying it.

“Be your authentic self and support your friends to be authentic,” adds Way. “Don’t let society’s fear of you become your fear of society. Stand your ground and find loving support.”

Way encourages that parents of transgender children or children facing struggles pertaining to their gender identity purchase the book for their child’s school library.

“Educate yourself, learn and ask questions from other trans people and from the parents of other trans kids,” Way notes.

“Stand up and speak out against this kind of fear at your kid’s school board meetings. Be educated so you can educate others about trans children. Get involved because if you don’t show support for your child, how will the school know how?”

One Wichita librarian is advocating for the book to be available in schools.

“For a lot of kids, this isn’t some huge mystery anymore. It’s part of society,” said a Wichita school librarian in The Wichita Eagle. “I’m sure there was a point where if you had a black or white person dating in a book, or any gay characters, that was verboten.”

One member of the list’s selection committee cited that she understands concern surrounding the book and recommended that parents become more active in overseeing what their children read—whether they’re okay with a book like “George” or if they are not.

Despite its inconsistent availability in schools, “George” is available at the Wichita Public Library. Thus far, it has been checked out 70 times.

Copyright The Gayly – 9/28/2017 5:36 p.m. CST