The author of a book about a transgender child that is at the center of a debate in local school libraries will visit Wichita next month.
Alex Gino, whose novel, “George,” is a nominee for this year’s William Allen White Children’s Book Award, announced on their website Wednesday that they would appear at Wichita State University on Nov. 2.
Gino’s visit is being co-sponsored by the WSU Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Wichita chapter of GLSEN, an organization that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ students.
“We are super excited to be bringing Alex Gino to Wichita,” said Liz Hamor, co-founder of the GLSEN chapter.
“The recent local controversy over the book has started a lot of important conversations and is raising a lot of awareness of the fact that we do indeed have trans kids in elementary schools,” she said.
“We hope that by bringing Alex to Wichita … we are able to create forums to continue the education necessary to ensure that our trans youth feel safe, valued, and respected in K-12 schools.”
The library supervisor for the Wichita school district said “George” contains language and references that are not appropriate for young children, so the district did not include it in a set of William Allen White master list titles provided to every elementary school.
Wichita school librarians are allowed to carry the book if they choose, but last month only four of the district’s 57 elementary or K-8 schools had purchased a copy.
Prompted by the controversy, Gino recently donated more than 50 copies of the book to GLSEN in hopes of distributing them to school libraries.
Those books began being distributed this week, Hamor said. So far, librarians at 11 Wichita elementary schools, 10 middle schools and nine high schools have requested copies, she said.
“George,” published in 2015 by Scholastic, is a middle-grade novel about a transgender girl who doesn’t know how to tell her family and friends. George, who identifies as Melissa, decides to try out for the part of Charlotte in her school’s production of “Charlotte’s Web” in hopes of helping others see her the way she sees herself.
Gino said the book allows transgender children to see themselves reflected in stories: “It makes us feel real, it makes us feel valid, and it gives us a way to talk about things.”
But it also can be a tool for raising awareness and encouraging tolerance among all children, the author said.
“Books don’t change who people are, but they can change whether someone is trans-aware and whether someone is trans-accepting,” Gino said. “It’s important for the larger culture to have an awareness of the humanity of trans people.”
Details about Gino’s appearance hadn’t been finalized Wednesday, but local LGBTQ advocates planned to announce the visit at a National Coming Out Day event at WSU.