Local Oregon board calls for restricting access to gay books claiming ‘sexually explicit’ content

The Board of Commissioners representing Curry County in Oregon has asked five local public libraries to restrict access to so-called “sexually explicit” books in children’s sections, including books with LGBTQ+ content. The decision to send the petition was the result of a unanimous vote following a contentious community meeting on July 20 Wild Rivers Outpost reports.

The petition is addressed to the Chetco Library Board, and it claims that “sexually provocative material is scattered throughout the children’s department in various locations,” making them accessible to unsupervised children.

While the letter didn’t directly reference LGBTQ+ content, the meeting itself was laced with transphobic rhetoric. Some have suggested that trans people will face judgment before God, calling LGBTQ+ inclusive books “scammer [magazine] for children,” and complained that the books taught children to (horror of horrors!) accepting transgender people.

The letter was met with both outrage and confusion by county library managers. The directors explained that the information it contained was either exaggerated or completely inaccurate and that the board does not have the power to enforce it. County libraries plan to disregard the petition.

Jeremy Skinner, director of the Curry Public Library, said: ‘Children should be accompanied by adults. The idea of [unchaperoned] kids running around are inaccurate. Beyond that, all I have to say is that they welcome their opinions. It won’t change what we do. We all work very hard to ensure that we follow best practices for Oregon libraries.

This is just the latest attempt to remove queer content from county libraries, as the inclusion of the graphic novel Gender Queer: A Memoir became a source of controversy months earlier. The book contains explicit material but has been set aside in the adult section. Julie Retherford, director of the Chetco Community Public Library, refused to remove it, which seemed to stir up queerphobic tensions.

Retherford explained: “The library board confirmed my decision to keep the book. From there it spread. More people got involved and started complaining about the types of books in the library. We had conversations with residents and politicians about these issues. I support our policy. Our books are perfectly adapted to the age groups for which they are intended.

While the council’s petition is nothing more than an empty gesture, it signals a dangerous misinterpretation not only of trans people, but of library materials as well. “These are very standard educational books found in the non-fiction section of any library, as they should be,” Retherford said. “They are called obscene, and they are not. Everything in the children’s section is educational. The picture they paint from their public forum is neither accurate nor useful for public libraries. They are certainly welcome to share their [opinions] and formulate their requests. But they have no authority over the special districts.

Colin L. Johnson