A pair of Republican politicians from Virginia want a court to force Barnes & Noble to stop selling two controversial books about gender identity to minors, including Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir “Gender Queer.”
Tim Anderson, a representative in Virginia’s General Assembly, wrote a post on his Facebook account this week saying he intends to file restraining orders against two Barnes & Noble booksellers in Virginia Beach.
Anderson, a lawyer who petitioned the court on behalf of GOP congressional candidate Tommy Altman, also wants the chain to stop selling the fantasy book “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas, according to Bloomberg News.
On Wednesday, the Virginia Beach Circuit Court ruled that there was “probable cause” to believe that both books should be considered obscene for minors.
“Gender Queer” is particularly controversial. Parents and lawmakers in at least 11 states have demanded that the book be removed from school libraries.
The book includes an illustration depicting Kobabe as a 14-year-old who fantasizes about an older man touching the genitals of a younger man.
Both books were removed from library shelves within the Virginia Beach Public School system.
Now Anderson and Altman want a privately owned business to be subject to the same restrictions as the town’s public school system.
A Barnes & Noble spokesperson told Bloomberg in an email: “We live in a diverse society, and that diversity of opinion is reflected in the books we carry on our shelves that cater to the wide range of interests of our customers.”
“We ask that our customers respect our responsibility to offer this breadth of reading materials, and respect also that, while they chose not to purchase many of these themselves, they may be of interest to others.”
Anderson told Bloomberg that the restraining order does not constitute a “ban on books.”
“This is a request to determine if super sexually explicit material should be restricted from minors to view without parent consent,” Anderson said.
He said the goal of his legal action “would be to restrict minors from having access to the sexually explicit materials until they first obtain parental consent. Identical to how we allow minors to watch R-rated movies in public theaters.”
Kobabe told NBC News that while some aspects of the book may be inappropriate for minors, the graphic illustrations are “integral” to show readers how young transgender kids experience their youth.
“It’s very hard to hear people say, ‘This book is not appropriate to young people’ when it’s like, I was a young person for whom this book would have been not only appropriate, but so, so necessary,” Kobabe said.
“There are a lot of people who are questioning their gender, questioning their sexuality and having a real hard time finding honest accounts of somebody else on the same journey. There are people for whom this is vital and for whom this could maybe even be lifesaving.”