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Saturday, May 25, 2024

‘They’re trying to erase a segment of our community’: Controversial book curation event causes Davis community to clash

Child safeguarding initiative by local anti-trans activists attempts to remove books about gender and sexuality from schools and public libraries 

 

By ZOE SMITH — city@theaggie.org

 

Content Warning: This article contains discussions of transphobia.

 

On May 21, a local group called the Yolo County Moms for Liberty hosted a “child safeguarding meeting” at Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library. The meeting was open to the public and was advertised as a discussion about what books are age appropriate for children to have public access to.  

All of the books discussed had to do with gender identity, sexuality and mental illness. Some of the titles include “ABC’s of Gender Ideology,” “Introducing Teddy, “What Are Your Words?,” “If You’re a Kid Like Gavin,” “This Book is Gay,” “Too Bright to See,” “Flamer,” “Let’s Talk About It” and “Thirteen Reasons Why.” All of these books can be currently found at the Davis Yolo County Library, or various Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) libraries.

One concerned parent, Catie Hembrow, attended the event and spoke out against the group’s advocacy. 

“I trust that the librarians and the administrators at the school are putting material out that is age appropriate for our kids,” Hembrow said. “I think what [Yolo County Moms for Liberty] want is censorship. I think what they want to do is be comfortable. And the presence of trans people in our community particularly is discomforting for them. I feel like they’re trying to erase a segment of our community.”

Allie Snyder was one of the parents who organized the event. Snyder has been a vocal member at school board meetings over the last year and has been involved in advocating for “detransitioning,” which is the belief that trans individuals should stop or reverse gender transition.

“We really wanted to have a community discussion and explore some of the books that are offered to our children in our school libraries, and evaluate whether or not as a community we thought that these books were appropriate,” Snyder said. 

Snyder disagrees with calling the safeguarding project “book banning” and prefers the term “curation.”

“Curation is organizing and maintaining a collection of books, so librarians get to make a determination on what books they will carry in their library,” Snyder said. “Playboy is not offered in any of our school or county libraries. That’s a decision on the part of the librarians. Playboy is not banned […] book banning is more a question of a publisher, no longer offering a book. I believe that that’s the distinction.”

Attendees of the meeting were initially encouraged to ask questions to foster a group discussion. However, throughout the meeting, attendees began to shout over one another to ask questions and give answers. Three women hosted the event and about 25 community members attended.

Adrian Beth is another Davis resident in attendance who was not in support of the project. 

“I heard about the event from a friend and I know this has been a much bigger issue around the country and it’s been pretty concerning as a queer person to see,” Beth said. “I was very interested in hearing what their reasoning was and maybe, hopefully, trying to help provide perspective as someone who could have really used a lot of material like this as a child that would have helped me understand a lot more about myself.”

Snyder is not the only parent who is concerned about when and how topics of sexuality and gender identity are being discussed with children in the community. There is a group of parents in Davis advocating for these views. Some are members of Yolo County Moms for Liberty, which has nearly 200 members in its Facebook group, while others are members of Our Duty. Snyder believes that what these groups are advocating for isn’t political.

“There’s nothing political about saying it’s wrong to convince children that they might possibly have been born in the wrong body and should take drugs and surgeries that will sterilize them and render them medical patients for life,” Snyder said. “There’s nothing political about saying it’s wrong to sterilize and mutilate children.”

Beth shared a different perspective.

“I think maybe they were really underestimating what kids can be going through and how important it is to have conversations with kids who might be having some really terrible thoughts and just struggling a lot,” Beth said.

 

Written by: Zoe Smith city@theaggie.org