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Books

Backlash after North Carolina bans book about boy who wears dresses

Josh Jackman March 24, 2017

A married couple who wrote a children’s book about a boy who likes dresses had the perfect response after it was banned by school authorities in North Carolina.

Jacob’s New Dress seeks to spread the message that children who are different should be met with love and acceptance, and should not be bullied.

It was set to be read in all first-grade classrooms in Charlotte Mecklenburg, but county authorities have bowed to conservative demands that the book be banned for endangering “traditional family values.”

Republicans in the state General Assembly played a role in barring a book which they see as promoting the simple idea that it’s acceptable to be trans or to accept others if they are trans.

In response to this decision, Sarah Hoffman, who wrote the book with her husband Ian, told the Charlotte Observer: “The idea that a book can turn someone gay or transgender is bizarre to us.

“Reading a book can’t turn you gay. If a white kid reads a book about Martin Luther King Jr., will they become black?

“This book is about a little boy who wears a dress, something outside of traditional gender roles, much like the idea of a girl wearing pants was 100 years ago.

“It’s about following your heart,” she concluded.

But according to the conservative groups like the North Carolina Values Coalition, this book about children searching for their own happiness is “privacy-invading political correctness.”

The NCVC added that supporters of the book were “trying to use National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month in April as a cover to push an LGBT ideology on children”.

The anti-same-sex marriage, pro-life group is using the controversy as a fundraising tool.

The authors said the ban was especially concerning as it follows North Carolina passing the HB2 law last year.

HB2 forces people to use the public toilet corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, and eliminated statewide anti-discrimination protections.

“North Carolina seems like a very divided state. And I sense a lot of fear,” said Sarah.

“We like that this conversation is being had. It’s why we wrote the book. In this case, it’s a forced conversation.”


The Hoffmans, who live in California, said the situation made it even more important that children are able to learn that discrimination is wrong.

“It tells us our book is needed there,” said Ian. “Our hope in writing this book was that it would one day be considered quaint. This controversy tells us there is more work to do.”

Sarah added: “I think they are afraid of something they don’t know anything about, but people were also afraid of integration and giving women the right to vote.”

Ian said that “some of the code being used (by critics) is confusing to me. All this talk about ‘privacy.’

“But I think they are using the ‘slippery slope’ argument: If boys are allowed to do something outside the boy gender box, it is the next step to becoming gay.”

The Hoffmans said Jacob’s New Dress has resonance within their own lives, as they are raising a son who used to walk around the house, age four, “wearing a sparkly princess dress and carrying a battleaxe.”

More: charlotte, Children, children's books, elementary school, gender, North Carolina, school, US

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