Jacqueline Wilson has been criticised for her comments on transgender children, days after another Puffin author got into hot water on the issue.
In an interview with the Telegraph Wilson said was asked if she would consider a trans character, following the criticism levelled at Boyne last week for his children's book about a transgender teenager, My Name is Jessica (Puffin).
"If there was a really strong reason for me wanting to write about a trans child then possibly," the Tracy Beaker author told the newspaper. "But I wouldn’t want people to think I’d jumped on the bandwagon just because it’s current and in the news."
"If only everybody could be and act exactly the way they want to but not actually try to change themselves physically, I think that would be easier,’ she said. "It is just so difficult because everybody has such strong opinions and whatever you say - as the police expression has it - can be taken down and used as evidence against you.”
In the interview promoting her 110th book, Dancing the Charleston (Doubleday), Wilson said: "We still have a strange way of putting girls and boys into different slots. I wish we could come to a stage when anybody who fancied could wear a dress and do so-called 'girly' things or anyone who wanted could wear jeans and tinker with car engines.”
The former children’s laureate expressed concern about children taking drugs or being operated on after identifying as trans.
"Some people, right from the time that they are toddlers, are aware that something is wrong and they wish that they could be the other sex,” she told the Telegraph. “But I’m also aware that some children feel strongly for a while and then they change their minds. I think it’s a decision that has to be left a while until you are utterly mature and utterly certain you know all the actual consequences.
"Where I would be very, very worried is young children taking any kind of drugs, hormones or whatever, the long term effects of which we don’t know. And the whole idea of having major surgery… If you’re a young child it’s not a question of just having bits of you lopped off. It’s really serious, difficult surgery which can have pretty devastating consequences, I would imagine. It’s nothing to be taken lightly."
Many criticised her comments on Twitter, including some authors. Writer and host of "What Page Are You On" podcast Alice Slater disagreed with the author's comments. She tweeted: “Jacqueline Wilson flew a flag of ignorance today, and I’m genuinely disappointed to learn that she’s paid so little attention to an issue that’s so f*****g important to so many of her readers.”
Author Lisa Williamson echoed this, revealing her professional experience in the area. She wrote: “I spent 2 years working at the Gender Identity Development Service. Their number 1 function is offering talking therapies to young transgender people and their families. The only physical treatments available to service users under 16 are (physically reversible) hormone blockers.
“Hormone blockers are only ever prescribed after a thorough assessment process. Surgery is only available via the adult service. A visit to the GIDS website will confirm all of this…. I adore Jacqueline Wilson but she doesn't know what's she's on about.”
A Manchester-based writer, known as Quen on Twitter, tweeted: “#JacquelineWilson has always been my favourite author but I refuse to stand for transphobic views or apologise for pointing out ignorance. *Again*, I don't believe JW is hateful but she has proved herself in need of further education on trans issues. That is beyond denial.”
However others defended Wilson including Sam Pope, a school librarian and specialist in children's literature & Gothic stories. She tweeted: “Saddened by all the grief Jacqueline Wilson is attracting... She never even said that transgender children were having ops or taking hormones - she was speaking hypothetically, thus the use of the conditional tense. Now she has been leaped upon by people for being transphobic.
“The irony is that if it hadn't been for her enormous influence on young readers, by tackling 'grit-lit' - the not-so-rosy side of many children's lives - many children & YAs nowadays might not feel empowered to object to stereotypes or misrepresentation.”
Wilson’s publisher Penguin Random House Children’s declined to comment. Wilson’s Tracy Beaker series is published by Puffin, with the latest installment, My Mum Tracy Beaker, published last October. She has sold 19.5m books altogether, for £106.5m according to Nielsen BookScan.
Last week Puffin said it was proud to be publishing Boyne’s novel about a transgender teen, after the book was labelled "transphobic" by some campaigners, and an article the author wrote in the Irish Times about the subject received criticism on social media. My Brother's Name is Jessica was published last Thursday (18th April) and follows a boy’s journey to understanding and accepting his transgender sister. Boyne initially responded to some of the complaints but has now deleted his Twitter account.