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The fate of ‘Gender Queer’ now in the hands of Lapeer librarian

library meeting

Lapeer District Library Director Amy Churchill has until May 16 to rule a request to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from library shelves. She has steadfastly defended the book, even as a county prosecutor has said the book’s presence could amount to a felony. (Screenshot from MLive video)

  • Lapeer residents debated the merits last week of keeping the book 'Gender Queer: A Memoir' on library shelves 
  • Several people have asked for the book to be removed, which triggers a formal review process by the library 
  • The library director has 75 days to decide whether to ban the book, but it will remain available until that decision is made  

The fate of a LGBTQ- themed library book that a prosecutor has said could prompt criminal charges is now in the hands of the local librarian, who is showing no sign of backing down from the fight. 

At a contentious public hearing last Thursday, most residents who spoke expressed support for keeping the book — “Gender Queer: A Memoir” — on library shelves. But several speakers  — including, notably, John Miller, the county prosecutor — said the graphic novel is inappropriate for children to access at a public library because it includes illustrations of sex acts. 


As Bridge Michigan first reported early last week, Miller raised the prospect of filing criminal charges if the book is not removed citing a state law that makes it a felony to entice a minor for immoral purposes. Miller has said repeatedly that his opposition to the book is not based on LGBTQ themes, but rather on the sex-related illustrations. 


Amy Churchill, the library director, has steadfastly defended the book and the process the library followed before adding it to the library’s collection. 

She said she believes one of the goals of the protestors is to pressure the library to not carry any LGBTQ content. But, she said, “nothing will stop the Lapeer District Library from following the guidelines in its Materials Selection Policy and responding to patron requests in building a wide ranging diverse collection.” 

Under library policy, if anyone objects to the presence of a book the challenge goes through a reconsideration process. As library director, Churchill has 75 days from the time a complaint is filed to review the material and make a decision. The first complaint was filed March 2, which means she must rule by May 16. In the meantime, the book will remain available for checkout. 

Once she rules, any resident who is unsatisfied with her decision has 10 days to appeal to the library board. The board will then have 60 days to make a final decision on whether “Gender Queer” will remain.  

Bridge reached out to board chair Gary Phillips on Friday and Monday, but he said he was not available for comment before this report was published. 

“Gender Queer” has sparked controversy across the state and the nation and has been cited as the most banned book in America amid a movement by conservative parents, public officials and activists to remove or restrict material from schools and libraries that deal with LGBTQ themes. 

The book tells the story of how the author came to terms as a teen with their sexual identity, the difficulties of coming out as nonbinary to family and friends and navigating issues of sexuality. 

Several community members spoke out at a library board hearing Thursday at the Lapeer Center Building. The event was originally scheduled in the Lapeer Public Library but was moved in anticipation of a large crowd. The board heard from parents, children and residents at the three-hour hearing.  Most spoke in support of keeping the book, but a sizable minority objected.  

“People who struggle with their sexual identity need and deserve literature that shows them that they are not alone,” Susan Fernadez, of Metamora Township, said at the meeting. “They belong in our books, they belong in our community and they belong in our library.” 

But others criticized the book’s presence. 

“What are we doing exploiting innocent children’s hearts and minds and using our taxpayer dollars to do it?” Truman Mast of Imlay Township said at the meeting. “If you will not get rid of these un-Godly books … then we the people in this county will make sure that the library millage is never renewed.”  

“Gender Queer” is shelved in the adult section of the library but anyone can access it. 

“There are no physical restrictions to prevent anyone from accessing any part of the library,” Churchill wrote in an email. “We do have an unattended child policy that requires direct adult supervision for anyone under the age of ten and our Materials Selection Policy clearly identifies the parental authority to monitor their own child's reading material.” 

The library purchased the book last fall at the request of a patron. Shortly after, community members began objecting to it. One resident checked out the book and turned it in to the police, who then returned it back to the library. 


In 2020 “Gender Queer” won the Alex Award from the American Library Association, which recognizes books that are published for adults but are of interest to readers ages 12-18. 

Miller, the prosecutor, told Bridge last week he believed the graphic novel’s depiction of sex acts by seemingly young characters could violate criminal code 750.145a, a law that states that “accosting, soliciting or enticing a minor for an immoral reason is a felony.” 

At the board hearing, however, Miller downplayed the potential for criminal charges and focused on the particulars of his objection to “Gender Queer.” 

“Let me be perfectly clear, I do not advocate banning books that involve LGBTQ content,” he said during the hearing. “However, books that encourage children to engage in sexual acts when they are not the legal age are not appropriate for a public library.”

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