Giving the morning keynote at Illinois Safe Schools Alliance's inaugural Symposium on Oct. 9, author Alex Gino acknowledged, "2017 is complicated as A.F. .... We are seeing our rights as queer people [and others] at risk."
But Gino, who described themselves as a "cynic," also acknowledged, "While we're seeing some terrifying stuff this year, there are more rights to protect than ever before."
Gino identifies as genderqueer and uses "they" as a pronoun.
Their 2016 middle-school novel George was the first book published by Scholastic that centered around a transgender central character. It centers around a young person's realization that she is trans. Gino was awarded the 2016 Stonewall Book Award as well as a 2016 Lambda Literary Award in the LGBT children's/young adult category for their work on George.
Gino began writing the book in 2004. They admitted that they never expected to see it published; as of 2017, it's been published in 14 languages. Nevertheless, George has endured is share of controversy. Gino said the book is frequently challenged by schools and communities.
"The ideas [from the book] that are challenged don't come from the center, they come from the marginalized," they said. "... Books like George don't make people queer or trans, but they can make people queer- or trans-aware."
Gino added that controversies surrounding George and books like it reflect adult anxieties more than well-informed determinations about what subjects young people can handle.
"Kids are used to not knowing things," they said. "It's adults who can't handle their confusion. ... Kids are a lot more aware than people realize."
Gino praised the work of the Alliance and said that, even if times are politically difficult, there are at least opportunities such as the symposium to gather and exchange ideas about LGBT youth and their allies.
"Youth are just about the only thing I believe in," they said. "... Maybe they'll do a better job than many of the people before them."