Some dads are trans. Get over it!
For clarity this article uses correct sex pronouns
My friends at Make More Noise have been “kind” enough to invite me to write a book review. I thought they quite liked me.
“Nothing Ever Happens Here” is a children’s book which has recently been published by Usborne. The Author is Sarah Hagger Holt, who also happens to be a Campaigns Manager at Stonewall.
Why is the author’s employer relevant? It’s hard to summarise feminist misgivings about Stonewall in a single paragraph, but amongst other things, many believe that Stonewall has become increasingly political, increasingly supportive of trans ideology at the expense of the same sex attracted people that the charity was set up to support, and too keen to teach trans ideology to ever younger children in schools.
Stonewall is the first organisation that is recommended at the end of the book. The second is GIRES, Who famously published “Being Me in Penguin Land”, an early years children’s book about a non binary penguin,
The blurb of the book is as follows:
“Izzy’s family is under the spotlight when her dad comes out as Danielle, a trans woman. Now shy Izzy must face her fears, find her voice, confront the bullies and stand up for her family”
The book first came to @transwidows attention when, rather than address concerned tweets from parents that Stonewall propaganda might be masquerading as a children’s book, Usborne tweeted calling them “transphobic trolls” (tweet subsequently deleted unsurprisingly).
It was then revealed that the author would be participating in an event to “celebrate queering children’s literature”. Because queer theory puts forward the idea that pushing boundaries is inherently good and progressive, this caused shock and horror amongst people with even a rudimentary understanding of it. The issue is in relation to child safeguarding, one of the core principles of which is to enable children to establish and maintain boundaries. Is this book part of an organised strategy to “queer” children’s literature?
An expectation that trans widows have to counter with depressing regularity, is that we should have not only welcomed, but celebrated our ex-husband’s transition and treated it as the first step on a stunning and brave rainbow adventure that we would embark on together. Our concern should always have been for how difficult it would be for him and we shouldn’t have had any feelings or concerns other than joy and pride.
I really didn’t want to read this book. I feared a book about a parent’s transition, written by a Stonewall advocate would place a similar expectation on children
I was right to be worried, because it does.
This book goes through the motions of allowing the child protagonists to have their own misgivings about their Dad’s transition but these feelings are only allowed to be short lived. By the end of the book, the children (12/13 year old Izzy and her siblings) are shown not only accepting the situation, but being grateful that is has improved their lives. It gives a wholly unrealistic standard of acceptance and celebration for any real child to live up to.
Dad’s transition progresses at whirlwind speed after the scene where Izzy and her friend find large women’s clothes in the back of a cupboard and the friend, in a weirdly creepy description (that reads like it was written by an autogynephile or a cross dresser) “shakes out one of the dresses, holding it up against herself and feeling the silky material between her fingers”
Izzy and her siblings are expected to start trying to use female pronouns straight away and they rapidly have to come up with something new to call their Dad (why on earth they can’t continue to call him Dad is not explained). They decide on “Dee”. He is so little concerned with exercising any discretion in his transition that not long after, there is a frankly bizarre chapter, where he goes on the local news en femme to commence his new path as a trans rights activist.
Izzy ends up standing up in front of her class later that day saying how proud she is of her Dad for going on TV to argue against (exaggerated) newspaper reports about trans children. Not only must a child accept their parent’s transition, they have to become activists too. Given teenagers can be embarrassed by the most trivial of things their parents do, you could be excused for considering this to be unrealistic.
By the end, we’re given the slight TMI for a kids book, that Dad is about to start hormones.
There is an ongoing tension in the narrative because of the paradox that Dad’s transition is simultaneously really not all that significant (accept it kids, it’s not a big deal, he’s still Dad inside!) and hugely significant (he’s got to do it! He’s been miserable and depressed for years!)
Izzy is depicted as feeling responsible for her Dad’s feelings in a way which is entirely unhealthy and would be damaging to any child in this situation who read this book. It would make them feel like a failure for not having been supportive enough and that is absolutely not how children should be made to feel. Their needs should come first and whatever feelings they have are valid.
Izzy says at one point “Now that I feel better, it’s up to me to make Dee [her father] feel better too. Yes I needed Grace [her best friend] but right now Dee needs me. Of course she does. I’ve got to be there. I can’t let her down!”
A child should not be encouraged to feel responsible for the happiness of a parent in any situation ever, because this is a dynamic of emotional abuse. At its worst, this situation is known as “emotional incest”
Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley tweeted about the book “Children need to be given the freedom to remain as children and not be forced to become their parent’s supporters.”
I would hate to think of this book being used by Fathers who are transitioning, as a manual for their children to prime them to minimise their own feelings, and to show them how they should be reacting.
Anybody who wants to read a more realistic account of a parent’s transition should have a look at my friend’s blog at childrenoftransitioners.org. In the future I am sure we will have many more accounts written by children describing how they felt when a parent transitioned. They won’t be anything like this book.
How does Izzy’s’ Mum, our future fictional trans widow recruit, react to her husband’s transition? She doesn’t quite treat it as a stunning and brave rainbow adventure, but she’s not allowed feelings any stronger than brief reluctance and there’s never any question that she might leave the marriage. It’s also pointed out to us that she’s the least favourite parent because she’s much less fun and much less understanding than Dad (I wonder why that might be?). Conveniently she’s portrayed as a woman of few words. The book would not be significantly different if the mother was not in it at all. Which to be honest, as a trans widow, sounds chillingly familiar.
Safeguarding Consultant: LangCleg
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