American Girl’s Guide to Body Image Sparks Anti-LGBTQ Backlash
An American Girl doll book about body image faces an unprecedented backlash from anti-LGBTQ critics over two pages about gender expression.
“To the best of our knowledge, no other American Girl book has received similar reviews,” company spokeswoman Julie Parks told USA TODAY.
According to Parks, “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image Book,” released earlier this year, is American Girl’s first book to address issues around gender identity and expression. It’s advertised to children ages 10 and up as a guide “to loving yourself, living life to the fullest, and celebrating all kinds of bodies.
“Our Smart Girl Guides are known for supporting young people and their families through a variety of complex teenage topics,” Parks said.
American Girl’s website was flooded with negative reviews of the book. Its backlash also comes amid a historic year of states considering or passing anti-LGBTQ legislation, including book bans in schools, bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth and restrictions on talk. on LGBTQ topics in elementary school classrooms.
The 96-page book is marketed as a resource for “everything you need to know about developing a healthy body image”, offering readers activities, tips, crafts, “real girl stories” and a reminder that “all bodies are worthy of love and respect.”
“In these pages, you will see all kinds of bodies: large and small bodies, bodies with disabilities, bodies of different races and ethnicities, and bodies with different gender identities and expressions. This is because every body is unique and deserves respect.”
What does the “T” mean in LGBTQ?Gender identity and transgender and non-binary communities
After:Children’s hospitals harassed and threatened for gender-affirming care programs
The company said that, out of “the many topics covered”, two pages were highlighted by conservative media and in negative reviews.
Page 38 of the book was noted for a phrase that directs children to other resources in case a supportive adult is not there.
“If you don’t have an adult you trust, there are organizations across the country that can help you.”
In an opinion piece published by Fox News on Dec. 8, writer Kristi Hamrick alleges the book pushes “puberty blockers” on children without parental consent and sends “confusing” messages about youth.
But medical treatment, prescribed to some children with gender dysphoria at the onset of puberty, can reduce depression and anxiety, improve a child’s overall mental well-being and integration with other children, according to the Mayo Clinic. It may also play a role in reducing thoughts or actions related to self-harm, which LGBTQ youth experience at higher rates than their non-LGBTQ peers.
In addition, Suspending puberty can give a family more time to determine if a child’s gender identity is sustainable and consider a plan of care.
American Girl defended the book, adding that medical experts — including a doctor from Boston Children’s Hospital, a leading facility for gender-affirming medical care for young people — were consulted for accurate information.
“The content in this book was developed in partnership with health and adolescent care professionals and consistently emphasizes the importance of having conversations and discussing any feelings with parents or trusted adults,” said said the company. “We are committed to providing content that makes our readers feel informed, confident and positive about themselves.”
The company added that it values ”our customers’ views and feedback and acknowledges views on this issue.”
If you’re wondering about your identity or looking for the best way to support your LGBTQ loved ones, these resources can help. Find organizations offering free education, crisis intervention, peer support and information below:
- Trevor Project: Call 866-488-7386, text 678-678
- 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth ages 13-24.
- More than 400 chapters across the country provide confidential peer support, education and advocacy for LGBTQ+ people, their parents, families and allies.
- Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
- Free 24/7 assistance for people in crisis. Text from anywhere in the United States to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
- The national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender hotline: 888-843-456
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Camille Fine is a Trending Visual Producer on USA TODAY’s NOW Team.
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