The Courier News has published multiple articles about an explosive controversy over library books in Anderson County libraries.
Some of these articles have mentioned the law, but I do not recall any that have actually delved into the law.
Therefore, please see the following review of two of the 17 library books at the center of this controversy, “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” and “Let’s Talk About It,” in relation to Title 39 of the Tennessee Code as summarized below:
T.C.A. § 39-17-911 states that unless accompanied by the person’s parent or legal guardian or by an adult with the written permission of the parent or legal guardian, it is unlawful for any person to knowingly make available to a minor: any picture, photograph, drawing, or similar visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body, that depicts nudity, sexual conduct or excess violence; or any book or printed matter, which contains explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, sexual conduct or excess violence; and that is harmful to minors.
T.C.A. § 39-17-901 states “harmful to minors” means that quality of any description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual excitement, sexual conduct, or excess violence when the matter would be found by the average person applying contemporary community standards to appeal predominantly to the prurient, shameful or morbid interests of minors; and is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors; and taken as whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values for minors.
“Gender Queer” and “Let’s Talk About It” contain graphic, nonessential, obscene drawings of nudes, masturbation, intercourse, oral sex, sodomy, gay and lesbian sex, sexting, and sex toys.
Many of these drawings have no artistic, medical or educational purpose. Some merely stir up images in the mind, which suggest, excite and promote sexual experimentation.
Some of the written content in these books describes the human body and human sexuality as crude, vulgar and profane. Much of the content seems to focus on self pleasure, hypersexualization, narcissism, anger, contempt, rebellion, and nihilism: qualities that inhibit love, respect, discipline, and maturity — the very qualities that a minor needs to learn in order to thrive and grow up into a caring, happy, responsible, productive adult.
The authors of these two books, Miai Kobabe and Erika Moen, are not health-care or education professionals; they are comic book illustrators and writers who reportedly identify as non-binary or cisgender.
Anderson County is Bible Belt country. As a whole, we are a moral and conservative people with traditional middle-class values.
It is highly improbable that the average person in this community would not find these books, and some of the other books in question, to be in flagrant violation of the law and harmful to minors.
Consequently, our leaders and librarians need to adhere to the laws of our state and the prevailing standards of our community.