Austin Public Library staff is promoting a book about chest binding on its Teen Nonfiction reading list.

The book is available for teens on library shelves at 11 locations throughout Austin.

Categorizing the book as a graphic novel, APL touts Breathe – Journeys to Healthy Binding, by Maia Kobabe and Sarah Peitzmeier, PhD, as a “graphic guide for people interested in chest-binding as a form of gender-affirming care.”

School Library Journal, a popular resource for librarians, encourages the book to be made available for teens and refers to Breathe as “an essential purchase for all secondary and public library collections.” SLJ says the book “provides health information in a readily accessible manner that is otherwise difficult to find in science-based resources.”

Kirkus Reviews describes the book as focusing on personal stories and mental and physical health issues related to chest binding.

According to Kirkus, while the authors of Breathe advocate choosing “a binding method that is ‘kinder to your body,'” the review states that “readers must rely on self-reflection or comb through the interviews to determine exactly how to follow this advice.” Kirkus also recommends Breathe for readers as young as 14.

However, in a post on X, detransitioner and child protection advocate Chloe Cole stated that chest binding is unsafe. “There is no such thing as a ‘safe binder,'” she said.

Cole added, “I used full- and half-body GC2B binders for two years before getting a mastectomy. It deformed my breasts and I still have misshapen ribs to this day. I was 13-15 years old.”

In a survey of 1800 participants, 97 percent reported one or more side effects from chest binding, including pain, shortness of breath, digestive issues, and neurological issues.

Kobabe is also the author of Gender Queer, which the American Library Association listed as the most-challenged book of 2023 after parents raised issues with the content. While the ALA considers challenges to books in school libraries as censorship and “an assault on the freedom to read,” parental rights advocates see many books in school and public libraries as containing explicit and age-inappropriate content., a website organized by parents, rates books recommended for children and teens on a scale of 1-5 for graphic and explicit content. BookLooks rates Gender Queer as a Level 4, meaning that the book “contains obscene sexual activities and sexual nudity; alternate gender ideologies; and profanity.”

In contrast to the graphic and age-inappropriate content found in many school libraries and public libraries across the country, BRAVE Books offers alternatives, including faith-based children’s books promoting traditional American values. BRAVE Books also organizes a national “See You at the Library” day, slated to take place on August 24, 2024.

Debra McClure

Debra McClure is a contract writer for Texas Scorecard. She is also a former teacher.