Gender Queer Author Maia Kobabe, Oni Press Sued for Obscenity in Virginia


A pair of Virginia politicians have filed a lawsuit against Maia Kobabe and Oni-Lion Forge using a Virginia law that went into effect earlier this year that could have Kobabe’s acclaimed graphic novel memoir, Gender Queer, ruled “obscene” and banned from sale in the state of Virginia.

Virginia State Delegate Tim Anderson (who is an attorney in Virginia Beach) and his client, Tommy Altman, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives who recently lost badly in the Republican primary (receiving 14.3% of the vote and coming in third, with the winning candidate, Jennifer Kiggans, receiving 55.6% of the vote) are filing a lawsuit against the Kobabe and Oni-Lion Forge using Virginia’s new law (that became effective on January 1, 2022) that allows citizens to have books deemed “obscene” (even if a book is deemed obscene, the courts can rule that a book would be obscene only for certain age groups of people, like a book that would be obscene for a five-year old would not be obscene for a twenty-five-year-old).

RELATED: Gender Queer Is a Grand Memoir About An Artist’s Discovery Of Eir True Self

Anderson, who also recently sued a Virginia Beach Barnes and Noble on behalf of Altman for selling Gender Queer to minors, cited the part of the law that states, “Whenever he has reasonable cause to believe that any person is engaged in the sale or commercial distribution of any obscene book, any citizen or the attorney for the Commonwealth of any county or city, or city attorney, in which the sale or commercial distribution of such book occurs may institute a proceeding in the circuit court in said city or county for adjudication of the obscenity of the book.”

Of course, Oni-Lion Forge dispute the accusation of obscenity, citing the aspect of the law that notes, “At the hearing, the court shall receive evidence, including the testimony of experts, if such evidence be offered, pertaining to: 1. The artistic, literary, medical, scientific, cultural and educational values, if any, of the book considered as a whole,” as it is clear that the seven pages from Gender Queer that keep being passed around social media as proof that the work is obscene are a small, out of context piece of a much larger work.

RELATED: What the Banning of Maus and V for Vendetta Tell Us About Comic Book Censorship

As Oni’s answer notes:

The Petition fails to allege any of the grounds required under Code §18.2- 384. Considered as a whole, and further considered in the context of other literary works, Gender Queer, A Memoir cannot, as a matter of law, be deemed obscene in accordance with free speech principles and pursuant to any clear standards. Petitioner, identifies seven pages of a 240-page book, ignores the context of those selections contained in the book, and asserts that the book is obscene. 9. Petitioner’s conclusory assertions are unfounded when considering the entirety of the work. The petition in this matter grossly mischaracterizes the nature of the subject literary work, and all of the opinions stated in the petition are both irrelevant and contradicted by the content of the book taken as a whole and put into proper context. This can be determined 2 from the pleading itself which states that it includes a copy of the book as Exhibit A.

The law includes a temporary restraining order on the sale of the book while it is determined whether the book is obscene or not.

SOURCE: Book Riot

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