American Girl said it won’t put up with transphobia, even if it means losing customers.
The company pledged to stand by guidance about LGBTQ+ identities and bodies in a new book on body image, even as angered customers threatened to boycott the brand.
American Girl said while it “values the views and feedback of our customers” and acknowledges “the perspective on this issue,” it would stand by the information in the book, in a statement emailed to McClatchy News.
“The content in this book, geared for kids 10+, was developed in partnership with medical and adolescent care professionals and consistently emphasizes the importance of having conversations and discussing any feelings with parents or trusted adults,” the statement says. “We are committed to delivering content that leaves our readers feeling informed, confident, and positive about themselves.”
The book — “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image Book” — is aimed at girls age 10 and up, and acknowledges the existence of transgender and non-binary identities. It validates those who might be questioning their own gender identity, or who may already know that they’re trans or non-binary.
The book’s summary states: “In these pages, a girl will find everything she needs to know about loving her unique self, staying confident through her body’s many changes, and appreciating her body for the life it lets her live. Full of activities, tips, crafts, and real-girl stories, this book is a feel-good reminder that all bodies are worthy of love and respect.”
Social media shows outrage, support for book
Parents of trans kids praised the book online. Amber Briggle, a well-known activist in Texas whose son is trans, said she ordered two copies.
“Thank you, @American_Girl, for writing books that appeal to ALL girls,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s so important for children to be able to see themselves represented.”
The guidance in the book encourages trans, non-binary, or questioning kids to talk to a trusted adult — like a parent or school counselor — about what they are thinking, feeling, and experiencing so they can determine together what is best for their body.
It spans only two pages in the 96-page guidebook, but those two pages were enough to outrage evangelical extremists.
The web page for the book was flooded with negative reviews, accusing the company of “going woke,” “brainwashing young girls,” and essentially going against God.
“Bottom line — this book can be great IF you agree with all of AG’s views on gender identity and the importance of choosing your gender — but for our family, with a Christian worldview that believes gender is assigned by God at birth, this book stepped BEYOND the bounds of anything American Girl has ever before published, and I am sincerely disappointed,” a recent review reads. It echoes hundreds of reviews with a similar sentiment.
Book could have positive impact for LGBTQ+kids
Scattered among the negative reviews were those grateful that the company would publish something that could have such a positive impact for LGBTQ+ kids, who are already at greater risk of bullying, depression, and suicide, especially when they don’t have support from an adult.
A review titled “Thank You For Helping Children” says the organizations listed as resources in the book could “hopefully keep a child from killing themselves.”
“Anyone complaining about the book telling kids to go behind their parent’s backs is telling on themselves,” the review says. “Obviously they know they aren’t an adult their children can trust.”
The most recent post on American Girl’s Instagram account tells a similar story. Though the post is unrelated to the book, users flooded the comments section with angry jabs and threats to boycott the company.
One user who redesigns dolls commented against the backlash.
“I was raised in a conservative household and believe me, that’s more brainwashing than lgbtqa+ acceptance is ANYDAY,” she wrote. “Also, trans youth exist. Seeing acceptance at a young age could be make or break for those kids. A lack of acceptance means a lack of loving themselves for who they are,” she wrote. “They’re more likely to be suicidal because the type of people in these comments telling them that they shouldn’t exist. Trans kids need to be protected too.”
Multiple users replied to show support for the sentiment and commiserate over the transphobia in the comments.
“I’m scared for the kids of these moms who are commenting,” another wrote. “Heaven forbid their poor babies want to be accepted someday only to be betrayed and rejected.”