'Considerable' school interest in controversial gender book, publisher says

'Considerable' school interest in controversial gender book, publisher says

Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP) has ordered 5,000 copies of a book about gender diversity for schools, despite a media backlash over its subject matter.

A spokesperson for the publisher said it has received “considerable interest” in C J Atkinson's Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? from schools and is expecting a number of new orders to come in once the book is published later this month on 19th January.

Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? explains medical transitioning to children and follows a 12-year-old character called Kit, who is transitioning from female to male. In a press release, JKP said: “With the growing number of children questioning their gender, schools and parents across the country have been challenged over the limited support they can offer them. The introduction of gender neutral toilets and non-binary pronouns are important first steps, but there is a definite lack of resources out there for teachers, parents and children themselves.”

The book has received criticism from the Daily Mail, where columnist Sarah Vine said it is targeted at children who are “not even ready to choose their A-level subjects, let alone challenge their own biology”.

Former MP Anne Widdecombe said the book was “nonsense”.

“You can’t expect children to say that’s not a boy when it obviously is. At the age of seven, you know if someone is a boy or if they are a girl. It’s normal. It’s like they’re trying to do away with one of the basic pieces of childhood understanding.”

JKP said negative headlines about the book from some areas of the press were “disappointing” but “to be expected”. The spokesperson told The Bookseller: “Debates surrounding young transgender people are inherently sensitive and people have firmly held beliefs but sensational headlines fail to acknowledge how young trans people are some of the most at risk individuals in society. This is why we published CITYAGD; to ensure parents and those working with children have access to the support and guidance they need.”

They added: “There has already been considerable interest from schools who are being faced with questions in their classrooms that are difficult to answer. We will certainly be including this book in our extensive marketing to schools, and anticipate that many will want a copy – either direct from JKP, or through their normal supplier. We have certainly had substantial pre-orders from wholesalers and some retailers who can see the importance of measured and accurate information.”

CJ Atkinson, an LGBT activist, condemned the media coverage as misleading, inaccurate and potentially harmful for young people who identify as transgender in an interview with The Guardian.

“I would not go to a seven-year-old and say, ‘You can’t call yourself anything.’ That’s not what I’ve written,” they said.

“If you identify as a girl, assigned female at birth, and you like the colour pink, you like wearing dresses and sparkly things, that’s awesome. But if you are a boy who likes pink sparkly things that’s also awesome.

“It’s not a case of saying, let’s break everything down so that there’s nothing, so there’s no meaning in anything. It’s a case of opening it up so everybody can have access to everything.”