A book about transgender teenagers will be staying put on a top library shelf at Woolwich Central School.

The RSU 1 Board of Education voted unanimously Oct. 24 to uphold a review committee’s denial of a parent’s request to remove “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.”

Alysia Coats had challenged the book, saying its subject matter was “inappropriate” for students at the pre-K through grade 8 school, and asked that it be removed or placed with the librarian or a school counselor to limit student access. She appealed the review committee’s denial to the school board.

At the school board meeting, members of the RSU 1 community, which comprises Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich, supported keeping the book at the school, which serves students in pre-K through eighth grade. No one spoke in favor of removing it.

“I don’t know what we’re afraid of,” said Candice Watson, who has lived in the RSU 1 district for over 30 years. “Every parent has the right to restrict their child to what they read. Nobody has the right to restrict any other child or anybody else and what they read.” 

Dina (who didn’t give her last name to the school board), a resident of Arrowsic with two children at Woolwich Central School, said that as a volunteer at the school library, she believes that volunteers are well-trained in ensuring students are reading age-appropriate materials. 


She said she read “Beyond Magenta” in its entirety. The book features interviews with six transgender teens and young adults who describe their experiences at home and school and in navigating the world. 

“I felt I had a glimpse into six individuals’ lives that gave me a feeling of understanding and acceptance that I didn’t have previously. Access to this could be life-empowering to see yourself in someone else. If the individuals featured in this book had access to ‘Beyond Magenta,’ it could have positively impacted their mental health and changed their story. I want all age-appropriate children to have access to this book,” she said.  

Morse High School senior Margaret Hibl said the book is needed at Woolwich Central School “because transgender people exist, because we are an important part of society.” 

Hibl, who uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” described seeing “Beyond Magenta” on the top shelf of the school’s library where it is kept and marked as a book for middle school students only. They were curious about it since sixth grade but didn’t pick it up out of fear that other students might see and question them.  

Since then, Hibl has read many books featuring transgender people that have helped with their understanding of gender. “These books saved me,” they said. 

“’Beyond Magenta’ is one of the best books,” Hibl said. “It is considerate. It is thoughtfully written. It does a good job of showing a range of people under the umbrella term of ‘transgender.’


 “Why does everyone say, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ until a queer person is on the cover? Is it because you want trans people to disappear? Because that will never happen.” 

In a later interview with The Forecaster, Hibl reiterated that books like “Beyond Magenta” are vital for some students. “There are kids who depend on the school library to learn about themselves. If you don’t have a supportive family, school is where you go.”

School librarian Abigail Luchies said she was pleased with the support for the book and the board’s vote.

It was incredibly heartening to hear so many people support our students’ intellectual freedom and the importance of an inclusive educational community,she said, noting that she was especially impressed with the students who showed up to speak. 

Board member Jamie Dorr of Bath also said she was “very heartened to see such a strong support for the transgender community.”

Dorr cited the high rates of depression and suicidal ideation among Maine’s transgender youths as one of the most compelling reasons to keep the book and others like it on the shelves.


According to the most recent available data compiled by the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, in 2019, 72% of Maine’s transgender youths indicated experiencing depressive symptoms, compared to 31% of cisgender youths. And 52% of transgender youths had considered suicide, compared to 15% of cisgender youths. Cisgender is a term used to describe a person whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth.

“Moving this book to the confines of a social worker’s office sends the message that this book should be hidden, and I wonder what does that send to transgender students in RSU 1,” Dorr said.

Hibl said they were anxious about speaking before the school board, but were grateful when their words were met with applause, and since the meeting they have received overwhelming support from the community and many of their former teachers.

“You get scared sometimes that people will say something mean, and I was really nervous for the board meeting,” they said. “But people have been so nice and supportive, and it gives me hope for the future.” 

Coats did not attend the Oct. 24 board meeting and has said previously she does not want to comment to The Forecaster.

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