Summer reading program for middle schoolers pushes book advocating gender transition, pronouns and more

Middle schoolers in Maryland were assigned a summer-reading book glorifying its characters for gender transition, asexuality and crossdressing. 

Westland Middle School, part of the Montgomery County Public School District, assigned Alex Gino’s “Rick” to its middle school students as part of its summer reading program, along with corresponding assignments, according to a district document. 

The book’s website describes “Rick” as a coming of age story about a 12-year-old boy who is introduced to his school’s “Rainbow Spectrum club,” where “kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together.” 

Melissa is a biological male who identifies as a female – a character who is the protagonist of Gino’s first book. When Melissa reveals that “she” is a trans girl, Rick wrestles with the question of how people know if they are a boy or girl. 

In the Rainbow Spectrum club, Rick is taught to ponder his pronouns, along with questioning his sexual orientation and gender identity, eventually arriving at the conclusion that he is asexual. He determines this by doing a computer search for gender identity terms, realizing that he has never had a crush on a boy or a girl or “had that tingling in his pants grown-ups talk about.” 

At one point in the book, Rick’s grandfather tells him he likes to cross-dress and takes Rick to an event dressed as a woman. At another point, the Rainbow Spectrum club puts on a cabaret where one child dresses in drag.  

Westland Middle school’s reading program has listed this book as the “anchor text” for exploring “important themes raised by the author.” 

“This year’s book is Rick by Alex Gino and we think you will love the exploration of self-expression and exploring your own identity through the eyes of Rick!” the school’s website states. “Gino’s book will enable us to explore gender identity, self-expression, friendships, and learn the importance of standing up for one another.” 

Gino’s Twitter profile bio contains the pronouns “they/them,” the descriptor “fat femme” and “author of queer and progressive middle grade fiction.” The bio also contains the slogans, “Defund cops” and “pay reparations.” 

The summer reading program also includes a rainbow-themed Google slideshow with assigned questions such as “How do I define gender?”, “What does gender mean to me?” and “What are my first memories of learning about gender?“ 

Module 4 of the summer assignment is dedicated to gender pronouns and module 5 is about “BEING AN LGBTQIAP+ ADVOCATE.” 

Student’s are also assigned a project to design an “inclusive” flag or poster for the school, a “proposal for a schoolwide event to elevate or promote learning about the LGBTQIA+ community,” or a “letter to Alex Gino asking them to speak at our school.” 

Westland isn’t the only school recommending the book. Others include Roland Park Country School and Howard County Library System in Maryland, and Dover-Sherborn Middle School in Massachusetts.