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Media telling “blatant lies” in row over sexually explicit books in library, says teacher

A leading campaigner has said that many of the media reports on the controversy around sexually explicit books in the teenage section of libraries are “grossly dishonest” – and that it is a “blatant lie” to portray parents concerns with this material as being “anti-LGBT”.

Teacher Lynda Kennedy, who is a spokeswoman for the Irish Education Alliance (IEA), was sharply critical of media coverage of the controversy, saying that it mostly served to “talk about everything but what was actually in the books”.

She pointed out that two controversial books had already been removed from a reading guide issued by Children’s Books Ireland, and that the most scrutinised book – This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson – was no longer included in Curriculum Resources for schools from the Department of Education after the controversy arose.

She said that parents had begun to approach libraries after it had come to their attention that books aimed at teens as young as 12 years contained explicit instructions on ‘fisting’ and ‘blow jobs’, and on the use of adult dating apps such as Grindr.

“Regarding borrowing books, the parent is there to consent to the child getting a young adult library card, but the parent is not necessarily there when the child is borrowing or reading the book in the library. I don’t go to the library with my teenagers,” she said.

At least one book aimed at teens promoted the use of puberty blockers, a medical treatment which critics say was often offered hastily to teenagers and which has been withdrawn from use in the UK in almost all settings where gender dysphoria in teenagers is being treated under the NHS.

Ms Kennedy said that much of the media reporting around the libraries row seeks to downplay the content of the books, and gives a false impression that protests are aimed at banning books or censoring LGBT books, when the objective is simply to remove them from the children’s section.

The IEA said that it had, along with other groups, worked to inform parents regarding the content of the books, and approached libraries asking that the books be moved from the young adult section, which is aimed at 12-17 year olds.

Ms Kennedy said it was indisputable that the libraries were displaying, and sometimes promoting, the books that had led to the controversy – and that the books contained sexually explicit material which she said was entirely inappropriate for children, which has caused huge concern for parents.

Two of the books seen by Gript were ‘This Book Is Gay’ by Juno Dawson, and ‘Sex: An Uncensored Introduction’ by Nikol Hassler.

Dawson’s book is listed by Libraries Ireland as being widely available in the network – with more than 300 copies purchased by the public body.

340 copies of another book from Dawson, ‘What’s the T’, which is aimed at transgender teens, are listed as being available from Libraries Ireland.


Lynda Kennedy says that ‘the content of these books is quite pornographic and extremely sexually explicit. It’s got nothing to do with the LGBTQ community, it’s to do with the content of the books.”

“They are explaining sexual acts in a very, very detailed way that is not educational and is not necessary for children to learn about,” she said.

She pointed to sections of the Dawson book which she said contained explicit tutorials regarding anal and oral sex.

The book includes advice like “as with handjobs and breakfast eggs, all men like their blow jobs served in different ways” and “it’s about sliding your mouth up and down the shaft of his cock”.

While the instructions are explicit, the language is often pitched towards a young audience, with lots of headings like ‘Handsies’ and “Bummies”, and “Sexyfuntimes”.

Parents have said that the mix of childish language and cartoons with graphic sexual instructions is jarring, and the ‘teensy’ layout and animations don’t seem to sit comfortably with instructions about how to give orgasms and other sexually explicit advice.

Giving instructions how to use the adult app, Grindr, described by Pink News as a “hook-up app”, Dawson writes:

“Upload a tiny pic of yourself to the app. The app works out your location. The app tells you who the nearest homosexuals are. You then chat to them. Because they are near, it is easy to meet up with them”.

Critics have pointed out that, despite a note that Grindr is for over-18s in the book, the inclusion of detailed instructions regarding the hook-up app in a book which libraries display for teens as young as 12 is a safeguarding issue.

The second book seen by Gript, ‘Sex: An Uncensored Introduction’, contains very graphic, explicit and detailed instructions regarding ‘fisting’. Lynda Kennedy said that it was entirely understandable that parents were horrified to find out the book was being listed by libraries as being for teens as young as 12.

“This is not a book written for LGBT people – that is not the issue, the concerns parents have are around how explicit the content is,” she said.

Another book listed in Libraries Ireland, entitled ‘Trans Teen Survival Guide’ by Owl Fisher, extols the virtues of puberty blockers for teenagers saying: “puberty blockers are used to increase the wellbeing of trans teens and prevent dysphoria, depression and poor mental health. Puberty blockers can therefore be a lifesaver for trans teens.”

The HSE is currently reviewing the use of puberty blockers in children experiencing gender dysphoria after NHS England decided to limit their use of the drugs in the absence of research on their safety and effectiveness.

According to Libraries Ireland’s website, 321 copies of this book have been purchased mostly for display in the young adults section – 12-17 year olds in most libraries.



The Irish Education Alliance took particular issue with a recent Ireland AM segment on Virgin Media segment where a presenter characterised the protests as “people shouting about why they don’t like gay people” – and it was claimed that the issue was being used by the “far-right” to garner support.

The programme described one recent protest at a Cork Library as being “anti-LGBTI+” – and it was claimed by a presenter that images were being ‘doctored’ to create a view amongst parents that the book was sexually explicit.

On Ireland AM, journalist Paul Hosford claimed that the controversy was mostly around “one book” – Juno Dawson’s ‘This Book is Gay’.

“It’s a guide, I suppose, for young adults about modern dating,” he said, saying it had become a “focal point of a very nasty and incredibly divisive war on LGBTQ+ material being in any library.”

“Screen grabs of the book fly around every now and then – they contain very explicit things that just aren’t in the book,” the Irish Examiner reporter said.

Gript has examined the books which are the subject of controversy, including Juno Dawson’s book, and the quotes that this writer has seen shared online by parents are from those books.

Addressing the Ireland AM interview, Ms Kennedy said that parents’ objections had nothing to do with authors being LBGT but rather with the “extremely sexually explicit” nature of the book.

She said that following significant controversy – with the matter being raised in the Dáil and Seanad – Juno Dawson’s book was no longer included in schools’ reading lists which informed the SPHE curriculum.

Ms Kennedy said that she believed it was “grossly dishonest” for the TV programme to discuss the books which were the cause of such controversy without referring to the sexually explicit nature of some of the material.

“Do they think parents don’t believe the evidence of their own eyes,” she said. “The media is twisting the narrative to talk about everything but what is actually in the books.”

Mr Hosford did not reply to queries from Gript regarding his claims.


Last week, the Irish Examiner said that the protests were organised to force Cork City library “to stop carrying LGBTQ+ books”. It also said that ‘far-right’ elements were involved in the demonstration and flew in from the UK for that purpose.

Lynda Kennedy said that she wanted to emphasise again that the Education Alliance do not “condone or support book burning or book banning – that’s just completely untrue.”

She said the Alliance believed that parents had a right to speak to librarians about concerns and while librarians sometimes reacted negatively to complaints, parents had a right to remind them of what she described as their “safe-guarding responsibilities”.

“Parents have handed librarians their notice of responsibility of safeguarding which explains that they must take care that they are not exposing children to inappropriate reading material which would be in contravention to Section 10 of the Children First Act in 2015,” she said.

“Librarians might not be aware of that responsibility or might be taken aback and that might make them feel threatened but it doesn’t mean the parent handing the notice is being threatening,” she said.

“They may feel uncomfortable, but that is being conflated with intimidation or being threatening,” she said.

“I don’t want my children going to the library if they are looking for Harry Potter or whatever and then coming across the a book about fisting, and a great many parents feel the same – we just want the books taken out of the under-18 section,” she said.


Critics of the libraries campaign say that staff feel intimidated by some actions and that parents can supervise what books are borrowed by children from the libraries.

Last April, a protest in Fingal heard from parents who said that they had a right to speak out against books that sexualised children.

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