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    An anti-trans children’s book illustrator has been charged with terroristic threatening.

    Dan Sheehan

    April 6, 2023, 2:26pm

    Another day, another piece of horrifying anti-trans news in the book world. Even by recent standards, though, this one seems particularly fucked-up.

    An Alaska-based children’s book illustrator has been dropped by his publisher after making terroristic threats against transgender people.

    Mitchell Thomas Watley, 47—known for drawing mother-baby animal pairs like sea otters and wolves for books aimed at children aged 1 to 5, such as You Are Home With Me and I Would Teach You to Fly (written by his wife, the children’s book author Sarah Asper-Smith)—allegedly placed notes in various Juneau businesses that had an assault rifle superimposed over a transgender flag. The message on the notes read: “Feeling Cute Might Shoot Some Children.”

    As reported by AP yesterday:

    The first of several notes was found in a grocery store Friday, which was International Day of Transgender Visibility. That discovery prompted Juneau schools to increase security, and some parents kept their children home. Another was found at the Alaska State Office Building. The last notes were found Sunday at a Costco, and police used the store’s surveillance video to track the man who left the notes to his vehicle. Vehicle registration records led them to Watley, who was arrested Sunday, authorities said.

    If the image of a kindly children’s book illustrator—someone who has probably appeared with his wife at numerous library and bookstore readings to toddlers—using his talents, such as they are, to covertly incite violence against one of the country’s most marginalized and demonized groups, strikes you as particularly appalling, well, kudos on maintaining a base level of humanity in the current climate.

    In Juneau, booksellers and other local merchants removed the books Watley illustrated for Asper-Smith. Sasquatch Books, owned by Penguin Random House, said Wednesday it has ended its publishing relationship with the couple and will discontinue selling their books.

    Watley’s actions come in the wake of last month’s Nashville shooting, after which numerous right wing politicians and pundits pushed the false narrative that there has been a rise in transgender or nonbinary mass shooters in recent years (in reality, transgender people rarely commit mass shootings and are significantly more likely to be victims of violence), and suggested that movements for trans rights are radicalizing activists into terrorists. Court documents show that Watley referenced the Nashville shooting suspect after his arrest.

    “Officers spoke to Mitchell, who said (in essence) that he was in fear of the recent transgender school shooter and took it upon himself to print out and distribute these leaflets,” the criminal complaint said.

    Watley has an April 11 court date to face a single count of terroristic threatening.

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