Webb, M.L. The GayBCs. Quirk Books. 2019. $14.99. 32p. HC. 978-1-68369-162-4.
“A playdate extravaganza transforms into a celebration of friendship, love, and identity,” or so reads the description on my advanced copy of M.L. Webb’s The GayBCs. This LGBTQ+ alphabet book hits shelves in October, and Penguin was kind enough to send me an advanced copy along with a few other juvenile titles in their fall collection. I was especially excited when The GayBCs was revealed at the bottom of the box and wanted to dive right in, but it’s taken a couple of months for me to get my thoughts and feelings onto paper.
Webb got a lot of things right with this title. I was beyond excited to see the inclusion of Bi, Intersex, Non-Binary, and Pan alongside Gay and Lesbian, terms now much more common in children’s books. Introducing children to a broader view of the LGBTQ+ community is a breath of fresh air in the publishing world, and one this children’s librarian is especially excited for.
But the things Webb got wrong are particularly problematic. The use of Queer for Q, for instance, is a divisive decision. As was pointed out in a recent Rainbow Round Table email thread, the term “queer” is viewed very differently across generational lines, with some experiencing it as a quite painful reminder of historic oppression and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
Even more disturbing for many advanced readers of this title is the first letter of Webb’s alphabet. In a book that feels quite comfortable explaining intersexuality, non-binary identity, and pan romantic interest, the choice of “A is for Ally” is especially stinging. While ally makes sense in the context of the book’s playdate “plot,” many asexual readers have expressed profound disappointment – even anger – over their exclusion. If concern was expressed (either by Webb or the publisher) over use of the word “sex” (which was carefully avoided throughout the title), A could still have stood for “Ace.”
All things considered, while I was excited about this title – and still think its publication bodes especially well for the children’s book world – other recent releases for this age-range (4-8) handle the subject matter better. I particularly recommend It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, released in May of this year.
-Kate Frick, New York Public Library