The speed with which the transgender agenda is moving may end up making the same-sex marriage debate look slow and deliberative by comparison. And now Scholastic, the children's publisher that specializes in distributing and selling books through schools, is poised to bring the issue to a middle school classroom near you. The medium is George, the story of an eight year old boy named George who desperately wants to be considered a girl.
George is the first effort by author Alex Gino, self-described on Facebook as a "[p]rogressive middle grade novelist, author of GEORGE (fall 2015, Scholastic). Fat queer activist, glitter liberationist, urban gardener, and then some." Gino's bio on Twitter is similar:
Although the book will not be published until August, Scholastic is sending pre-publication copies to teachers for feedback on the novel. The letter accompanying the advance copies of the book reads as follows:
Although the book is targeted at middle-schoolers, George tells the story of a fourth grader named George, a boy who has "always" thought of himself as a girl. He keeps a stash of Seventeen and other girls' magazine hidden in his room, chafes at being called a "boy" or "young man", and is mortified by his own anatomy. A class production of Charlotte's Web brings the issue to a head when George wants to portray the spider Charlotte, a part offered only to the girls in his class.
The author Gino exclusively uses female pronouns to refer to George throughout the story, distracting for an adult but potentially unsettling for the novel's preteen and young teen target audience. The book's back-flap bio of the author takes a different tack, saying of Gino that "George is their first novel," a remarkable grammatically incorrect concession for an educational publisher to make in a children's book.
Although George uses Charlotte's Web as the vehicle to tell this eight year old boy's story, readers may find that the story The Emperor's New Clothes comes to mind as well. Although not everyone immediately accepts George's new gender, many of the cool characters do, and the reader is given the impression that reason will win the day and the others will come around. There is one mention by George's mother about George seeing a therapist to talk about "these things", but the mother says she probably needs someone to talk to about it also. There is no discussion of what other feelings that conflict with biological reality (race, appearance, age) might also be worthy of affirmation.
When asked to comment on the appropriateness of having a self-described "fat queer activist" be the one to address such a difficult, sensitive and controversial subject, a spokesperson for Scholastic initially replied, "Please provide an address and I’d be happy to send a copy of the book so you can make an informed judgment on the content." [A copy of the book had already been obtained for this story.] After a follow up inquiry, Scholastic provided the following statement:
Author Alex Gino has been working on GEORGE for more than twelve years and, during that time, the issue of gender identity has come out of the shadows and is now very much a part of American life. What GEORGE manages to do – with sensitivity and grace – is bring questions of identity to younger audiences in a natural and truthful way and with an age-appropriate storyline. As we have shared the book with educators, parents, and librarians, the resounding refrain has been, “This is the book we’ve been looking for!” These parents and educators have told us that rather than having young readers overhear conversations among adults or in the media, the book helps them to have the conversation directly with children, in a way that is deeply appropriate for their age level. They value the message of GEORGE as one that everyone, child and adult, can benefit from: BE WHO YOU ARE.The spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether or not Scholastic has published any books with alternative points on view on transgenderism.
Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.