- Robin Singer
Queering the children - Quickly
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
by Robin Singer
Carolyn Burjoski, bottom left, was ejected from this Waterloo Region District School Board virtual meeting for expressing concerns over content in some board-approved school library books (Screen grab photo)
‘CHILDRENS BOOKS’ is trending in print stories and online. Canada’s National Post posted this story following a Waterloo Region District School Board Trustee’s zoom meeting which censored a teacher from speaking two minutes into her permitted ten minute presentation with cries of “problematic” and “violation of the Human Rights” code. The original YouTube video was removed by the school board but it is archived here: https://mega.nz/file/0EERDAYC?s=03#NS-Y2DMVbJqeYgeZTJu5sUM7Qn5CiQBT-yPALFelMd0
The UK followed quickly with their “War on Children” story and CTV Kitchener’s “Silenced and Punished” described relevant passages from the First Chapter Book, Rick. The Scholastic Inc., blurb is innocuous and suggests that the reading suitability of this First Novel ranges from ages 8-12 and describes the story: “From the award-winning author of George, the story of a boy named Rick who needs to explore his own identity apart from his jerk of a best friend.”
For Ms. Burjoski’s opinion that maybe the grade 4 boy, who would typically be nine years old, was not asexual but merely immature, the teacher was immediately called transphobic and remains suspended from her job. Tom Blackwell from the National Post said on Jan 21, 2022 that “Carolyn Burjoski was discussing publications she said are available in the libraries of Kindergarten to grade six schools. She had begun to argue the books made it seem too simple and “cool” to medically transition to another gender when her presentation was cut short by the Waterloo Region District School Board’s chair”.
The next Waterloo Region District School Board Committee of the Whole Meeting on Jan 24th, 2022, became an exercise in gaslighting the public. (Since the WRDSB removed all videos, it is now available here) -- https://mega.nz/file/0UkwjZaL?s=03#G2GCpmfL1P_SwZnrSl1mZupo3Aa4tQhQXQApA5RZuT0).
One delegate, David Alton, said at the 24-minute mark in the linked video above regarding the question of age appropriateness...“when it comes to identity it is inappropriate, and when you see it there’s a good chance it’s coming from transphobic organizing”. He went on to say “They are queer from the moment they are born. The very nature of these questions is to invalidate and erase queer life. As a queer non-binary person, what about my identity is inappropriate for the children, for the next generation of two-spirit, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer and intersexual and more?”
Interestingly, Rick was not the first of Scholastic Inc’s ‘First Novels’ to become embroiled in controversy in Canada. The Lotteries Plus One was willingly pulled from the beginning of a grade three class study by the elementary school principal in Sept 2020 in Bragg Creek, Alberta, with help from the team at Rebel News. It was also deemed suitable by Scholastic Inc., for ages 8 to 12. Even internationally acclaimed and prize-winning author Emma Donoghue conceded that the book had “slightly extreme liberals values”.
It is worth remembering that students at the beginning of grade three are likely to be eight-years-old and First Novel reading level may be suitable for that level but the content may not be. Eight years old is well before puberty and twelve years old is fully in puberty so the range suggested by the publishers is deceptive. However, the books may be suitable for twelve-year-old struggling students.
The topic of suitability was on the board’s agenda due to a recent sudden decision by the Waterloo Region District School board to cull books which were deemed to be harmful or misleading to staff or students in all schools including school libraries and teachers’ own collections. Earlier, teachers received lists from their board of approved books from which they were directed to work. While “weeding” libraries and collections has been ongoing since before man landed on the moon, and some notable titles over the years have caused parental concern, never before have school boards ordered such immediate and massive censorship. To Kill A Mockingbird, The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies were among titles targeted for removal.
The National Post, in covering this story, interviewed trustees who were concerned about the lack of transparency. In that article long serving trustee Mike Ramsay said that he is concerned that “censoring or book burning” is being done under cover of human rights and equity. He continued, “Not only as a person of colour on the board but also after being around for many years now, my concern is that the criteria for banning books comes only from staff being informed by a select few.”
Activist school board trustees understand that such titles as Rick are vitally important to their agenda, not just to be picked up and read by the odd student, but because they are texts which will be endlessly exploited to normalize the indoctrination of gender ideology.
This beginning novel for example, may be read and discussed for many weeks with the help of the 22-page online teacher aids such as this one: Rick Novel Study. Several other widely accessible titles for in-depth study are Introducing Teddy, A House For Everyone, They She He Me, Is That For A Boy Or A Girl?, It Feels Good To Be Yourself and I Am Jazz.
Multiple lesson plans are easily found online or often provided by school boards. Teddy, because of his name, is assumed at first to be a boy, but Teddy knows he’s a girl because only he knows who he is on the inside. Early primary students learn the concept of non-binary from A House For Everyone and that only feelings are important. All actions and preferences are gender expressions, not personalities. A typical follow-up book might be They She He Me, an invitation to play with pronouns, spinning-off abundant follow-up fun. Is That For A Boy Or A Girl? teaches that girls have no right to exclude boys from their spaces by means of a catchy poem.
It Feels Good To Be Yourself and I Am Jazz might possibly, but not necessarily, be taught to students in grades 3 to 5, to familiarize students with vocabulary such as the meaning of non-binary, assigned at birth, body dissociation and the importance of sports inclusion. There would be no discussion encouraged in study guides of “farewell to penis” parties, infertility, bone loss, brain loss, heart weakness and permanent loss of sexual function.
A secondary industry of teacher’s guides has flourished online with sometimes dozens of companies selling guides to these same titles. They understand that these titles are not simply read-aloud books but texts with vocabulary to be normalized, exploited and manipulated for meaning. Human Rights Campaign’s 'Welcoming Schools', catalogues and recommends books for teaching at various levels and currently has guides for thirteen picture books. The Welcoming Schools Guide for Red: A Crayon’s Story for K-2 is eight pages long and at the end refers to four additional books, including a Canadian title Backwards Day by S. Bear Bergman. Note the suggested age level and goals.
Part of page 1 of the 8-page online teacher’s guide for Red.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by best selling New York Times author illustrator Michael Hall, is an example of a title which is found on school board lists everywhere. It features a blue crayon which is mistakenly labeled red, teaching children that what they are on the outside is not necessarily what is on the inside. It is one of dozens of titles on SOGI123’s curated list of books offered to K-12 schools. SOGI 123 is a Canadian organization supported by provincial governments in British Columbia and Alberta and the ARC Foundation (Allied Rainbow Communities) which boasts that “SOGI123 is our flagship program” to normalize gender ideology in Canadian schools. Books are the third pillar of their strategy of looking to grow throughout the rest of Canada.
Don Wilson, Owner/General Manager at Vancouver’s Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium says that queer books for children are big business in western Canada. In fact, Dr. Wallace Wong, a clinical psychologist living in British Columbia, is the author of three books for children. Dr. Wong is employed by the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development as an Adolescent Sexual Health Therapist garnering close to $100,000 annually, in addition to the financial rewards from his private practice. Here is an excerpt from one of his books:
“Kathy looks in the mirror every day. She sees a girl in the mirror, but she knows the mirror has made a mistake because the person in the mirror is not a boy” -- excerpt from When Kathy is Keith by Dr. Wallace Wong.
Since his books are dedicated to parents, children and professionals, do they effectively increase his practice?
But what are queer books? The screen capture below from trans-truth.com describes the imbedded messaging pitched to children starting in kindergarten and even day-care that queer books subvert the distinction between sex and gender. And what better place to promote them than family-friendly queer book shops?
In eastern Canada, another venerable Canadian bookshop, the Glad Day Bookshop describes itself modestly as the world’s oldest LGBT bookstore. Thrillist.com notes that “It functions as much more than a shop, it is a safe space for “activism and socializing”. They even host events on their facebook page which includes book launches, writing workshops, author visits and burlesque. Thrillist.com says that “their non-profit, Glad Day Lit has raised over $250,000 for drag queens and queer artists who are currently out of work.”
Michael Erickson, co-owner of Glad Day Bookshop, told Quill and Quire that books in all sections sell similarly well, but “queer parenting, children’s books, and youth fiction are our major sales sections. In that spirit, drag performers Fay Slift and Fluffy Soufflé started a monthly series for gender-variant children and queer families that sees them, dressed in full regalia, reading aloud queer-friendly children’s books, such as Catherine Hernandez’s M Is For Moustache: A Pride ABC Book and Vivek Shrya’s The Boy and the Bindi.”
But parties are the true heart of Glad Day Bookshop and in fact in 2016 they created The Naked Heart LGBTQ Festival of Words, with 40 authors at over 12 free events. The bookcases are movable so that the large space in the downtown Church Street neighbourhood can be endlessly reconfigured for parties which are as “wild, wet, and sexy as the rest of the city.”
There is an established commercial publishing market for books at the preschool level to secondary school on such topics as family diversity, gender stereotypes, gender diversity, middle grades fiction, middle grades and beyond non-fiction, and graphic novels. Parents and educators buy most books. Some parents naturally want to improve their child’s literacy levels while endorsing their queer family culture and educators must follow the mandated Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity curricula.
Booknet Canada develops technology, standards, and education for the Canadian Book Industry. In a recent Booknet blog post, Booknet posed five questions to S. Bear Bergman of Flamingo Rampant, an LGBT2Q+ micro-press founded by himself and J. Wallace Skelton. The pair have published 22 books with six additional titles coming soon and they identify their work as “mission driven publishing”.
Bergman said, “If you’re working in mission driven publishing, my feeling is your mission should be that compelling. It should feel like life or death...or at least wellness and wholeness or disenfranchisement. And if it does, I think that people will do whatever is necessary to fulfill their mission.” With such commitment as that of Flamingo Rampant, queer children’s books are certain to continue to be a growth industry.
In 2021 Goodreads, the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations listed the following statistics:
81 Transgender Friendly Young Children’s Books
35 Middle Grade Elementary Books about Trans Kids
107 Trans Young Adult Fiction
35 Children’s Books About Gender Identity for ages 8 and under
110 Gender Diversity Books
8 Gender nonconforming books
49 Non-fiction Books about children and gender
332 Books for Trans Teens
There are probably a lot more now.
Dr. Robert Bittner is a Canadian specialist in LGBTQ literature for children and youth. He has an MA in Children’s Literature from University of British Columbia and a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from Simon Fraser University. He suggests the following online book lists: ALA Rainbow List • ERAC – LGBTQ • Welcoming Schools • YA Pride • I Dream Library and suggests you visit his website. As well as being a LGBTQ+ Lit Specialist, he is Chair of the 2023 Caldecott Committee, the annual award for the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children. With such a leader of the prestigious Caldecott Awards, can multiple prizes be far away?
In 2019, according to an article in The Toronto Star, Canadian authors or illustrators published 419 books featuring 525 main characters. A total of 28 (5.3%) LGBTQ books were published with 6 picture books (2.1%), 4 middle school books (2.8%) and 18 young adult books (18.4). StatsCan in June 2021 puts the population of LGBTQ2+ at 4% of the country’s population.
The push to queer the children has prompted some people to push back. Canadian Gender Report has been a voice for parents and in January 2022, posted “How School Boards Are Responding to Parent Concerns”. Parents As First Educators supports the authority of parents over the education of their children through grassroots activism. A great many American organizations are actively organizing and have recently been in the news prompting the attention of the White House. One helpful video is Gender Ideology In Our Schools Part I, The New Face of Science Denial and Gender Ideology in our Schools.
Another organization, Parents Defending Education, recently posted a link from sinzi.substack.com, When Ideology Captures Biology Class about gender theory in genetics class! For a list of organizations which support parents see the toolkit section of trifold pdf flyer from trans-truth.com.
Recently BRAVE BOOKS in the U.S. launched a website focusing exclusively on stories for kids offering a conservative alternative to the “current cultural activism that our children are being taught in schools, in the entertainment they watch and the books they read.” And, just before Christmas 2021, Matt Walsh launched JOHNNY THE WALRUS so the race is on.
Wikipedia says Walsh wrote the picture book because "gender ideology is so absurd that they realize that if they want to convince people of it, they have to get to them when they’re very, very young and they’re not able to distinguish between fantasy and reality and make these kinds of common-sense judgments" and that he feels it will help to "protect our kids from that brainwashing.” Amazon’s ad states “From Daily Wire personality and bestselling children's book author Matt Walsh comes a timely tale of innocence, identity, and imagination.”