Teacher bans author’s books because she retweeted a trans support group

a close up shot of Robin Stevens, she has a bob haircut and is wearing rectangle glasses

A children’s author has had her books removed from a school because she once retweeted Mermaids.

Mermaids is a UK charity that supports young trans and gender diverse people.

A post on the notoriously transphobic parenting forum, Mumsnet, began with a mother expressing her annoyance that her teen daughter’s school wanted to support her transition. But her mother did not want her transitioning at that age.

Somehow the thread turned to fiction books for young people when a Mumsnet user, silentcrow, singled out author, Robin Stevens.

Silentcrow began by recommending Stevens’ mystery books, but their recommendation came with a warning.

‘Be aware the author retweets Mermaids – most notably when the recent investigation over lottery funding was happening,’ silentcrow wrote.

‘The most recent book has the main character, at 15, come out as lesbian (obviously not wrong in and of itself but I am automatically suspicious of uncritical support of Mermaids).

‘We have taken the decision not to stock any more of this series in our primary school as the characters are facing challenges more appropriate for older children. It’s sad because I genuinely like the books up to this point but we won’t endorse thoughtless wokery.’

#ThoughtlessWokery

Stevens found out about the post from a friend. Even though not officially affiliated with Mermaids, Stevens has donated money to them. Stevens said ‘I’m very supportive of the great work they do with transgender and gender diverse children and their families’.

‘The thing I found upsetting was not that they disagreed with me, but that they were using the disagreement as a reason to ban my books in their school,’ Stevens told Gay Star News.

‘My support for Mermaids has nothing to do with the books I write, and the fact that one of my main characters comes out in my latest book does not make my series any less appropriate for primary-school aged children.’

People came out in support of Stevens, buying her books and letting her know they loved her work.

‘I’ve been overwhelmed by positive responses from young queer readers (and young allies) about Daisy’s coming out – it was a plot point that felt important to me to write, but it clearly means even more to them,’ she said.

‘Seeing a character who they can relate to in a popular children’s book series has given them a lot of joy and confidence, and it’s deeply saddening that both straight and queer kids at this teacher’s school won’t have the chance to read the book.’

Thinking again of the children, Stevens hoped the children had the access to support they need ‘whatever their identity’,

‘My generation lost so much because LGBTQ+ identities weren’t discussed with us – I don’t want that mistake to be repeated with this generation, and that’s a big part of why I write the books I do,’ Stevens said.

Death in the Spotlight

One of the books singled out on the Mumsnet post was Stevens’ Death in the Spotlight. The story features Daisy Wells, a 15-year-old detective who comes out as queer in the book.

Stevens understood why it was so important to feature queer characters in books.

‘It matters desperately to me that Daisy, like many of my favourite people and some of my most loyal readers, is queer, and I wanted to make sure that I got the announcement of that fact right,’ she said.

‘Queer readers of all ages are suddenly able to see themselves in Daisy in a way they never expected, and I’ve been overwhelmed to realize, once again, how much representation matters.’

Let’s get creative

Stevens and her husband, David Stevens, decided to get creative and use the backlash to raise critical funds for Mermaids.

They’re now selling ‘thoughtful wokery’ t-shirts. Their plan is to turn ‘the hateful slogan into something positive’ and will give all of the proceeds to Mermaids.

‘We hope that we can give the charity money as well as our support, and we hope that we’ve turned this unpleasant story into some good news,’ Stevens said.

Author: Shannon Power

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