A children’s biography of LGBTQ activist and drag queen RuPaul was temporarily removed from the children’s section of the public library in Colchester, Connecticut, after a parent complained about a “sexually provocative graphic” in the book, town First Selectman Andreas Bisbikos (R) told The Connecticut Star.
Bisbikos explained the book, Who Is RuPaul?, has been temporarily removed until the Cragin Memorial Library director can assess the best location for it:
A parent brought forward a complaint over a sexually provocative graphic in a book about RuPaul. The parent felt the book was not properly located in an age-appropriate section of the children’s library. The parent came to me expressing his concerns and I brought the concerns to our library director for review of placement. The book was temporarily removed from circulation until it is decided what the best place is to put it for circulation.
The book had been placed in a display for “pride” month.
According to the Hartford Courant, Library Director Kate Byroade opposes the first selectman’s decision to temporarily remove the book until its placement can be reviewed.
Byroade, the Courant said, described the image in the book as “an illustration of a cosmetic advertisement RuPaul was featured in decades ago in which women dressed in bustiers and thigh-high boots spell out the word “VIVA.”
The library director likened the RuPaul image to other “objectified images of women,” with “thigh-high boots, which is what Batgirl and Batwoman and Wonder Woman basically wear,” she said.
Fox61’s video of the controversy over the book and the particular image of RuPaul can be viewed here.
“This book that people are concerned about is in the children’s department, yes, but it’s also in the part of the department for older school children, and we are not the deciders of what children read – parents are,” Byroade said in the video.
The library director, the Courant reported, said she was asked to attend a meeting with Bisbikos Monday, and was requested to “conduct a review of the more than 20,000 books in the library’s children’s collection and all the images in those books,” the report noted.
“I was told to remove the book and I said, ‘No, we have a procedure, we have a form. I don’t turn around and remove something from the library on a whim,’” she said.
Bisbikos told The Connecticut Star he asked Byroade “to conduct an inventory of the children’s section.”
“Protecting our children is important,” he said. “I feel that it is imperative that we review to see if there are other books that may contain sexually suggestive imagery and whether to consider placing them in a more age-appropriate location.”
“The book is still available for anyone in the public to review, it is just not located in the children’s section,” Bisbikos noted. “Clearly, we need to review existing policy not to remove books but to ensure that they are properly placed in age-appropriate sections of the library.”
“No book is being censored or banned,” the first selectman emphasized. “The question is whether we can find a more age-appropriate section of the library for the book with the consideration of the sexually provocative image that is being displayed.”
Bisbikos explained the decision to review the book “has nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation or any social issues.”
“None of the other Pride Books were pulled. If this image was found in a book about George Washington in the children’s section, there would have been an identical response,” he said.
The American Library Association (ALA) has promoted Drag Queen Story Hours for young children and has bestowed awards on books containing explicit descriptions of sexual behavior for children as young as 12 years old.
The Associated Press noted in September that the books Gender Queer, which “contains explicit illustrations of oral sex and masturbation,” and Lawn Boy, which “contains graphic descriptions of sex between men and children,” were both winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, a title bestowed on “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”
Both these books have been a focus of outrage by parents and community members as they sit on shelves of middle and high school libraries.
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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]