Netflix is touting a transgender-inclusive storyline in its new series The Baby-Sitters Club, in which one of the main characters babysits a trans child.
The live-action series is based on the popular Scholastic book series about middle-school girls who launch a babysitting business. The series is G-rated and is available on Netflix’s children’s profiles.
Rose Dommu, a writer and transgender woman, took over Netflix’s official Twitter account last Thursday to talk about a storyline from the show’s fourth episode, adding that the “depiction of a young trans girl made me cry happy tears.”
“The Baby-Sitters Club is a smart, sweet, and self-aware update of the beloved book series about preteen BFFs who start a childcare service — literal girlbosses! This generation’s BSC handle the same dramas as their original incarnations, with the circumstances updated for 2020,” Dommu tweeted.
In the storyline, Mary Anne, one of the main characters in the series, is asked to watch a young transgender girl, played by 9-year-old transgender actress Kai Shappley, whose mother, Kimberly, a Republican and an evangelical Christian, became an outspoken trans advocate after embracing her daughter’s gender identity.
Toward the end of the episode, Mary Anne defends Bailey’s gender identity to a doctor and a nurse who misgender her when she gets sick and is hospitalized.
“What this episode ultimately gives me is hope,” Dommu tweeted. “It illustrates what was articulated so perfectly in [Laverne Cox’s documentary Disclosure]: You can’t be what you can’t see. Imagine the young trans children who are going to watch this & see a version of themselves who is actualized, supported, and HAPPY.”
What this episode ultimately gives me is hope. It illustrates what was articulated so perfectly in @Disclosure_Doc: You can’t be what you can’t see. Imagine the young trans children who are going to watch this & see a version of themselves who is actualized, supported, and HAPPY.
— Netflix (@netflix) July 23, 2020
“In the real world, trans people are in real danger,” Dommu added, linking to a “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the website for the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD.
“That’s why it is so important that we listen to and trust trans kids while also building a kinder world for them to grow up in.”
“So, we have no choice but to stan The Baby-Sitters Club, our unproblematic queens and queer allies,” Dommu concluded.
“And more importantly: stan Bailey and all the very real children like her who know who they are. THAT is tea.”
So, we have no choice but to stan The Baby-Sitters Club, our unproblematic queens and queer allies.
And more importantly: stan Bailey and all the very real children like her who know who they are. THAT is tea. pic.twitter.com/JrvggtGvky
— Netflix (@netflix) July 23, 2020
But some social conservatives are angry at Netflix’s decision to portray a transgender child, accusing the streaming service of trying to “indoctrinate” children and bringing up material that is inappropriate for young viewers.
They particularly take offense at a scene where Dawn, one of Mary Anne’s friends, explains transgenderism as similar to someone being right-handed but being forced to do everything with their left hand.
“I’m very disappointed,” one Twitter user wrote. “The issue not only opens the door for young developing and vulnerable minds to be misled into incorrect thinking about themselves, but it is also a sexual issue, of which children do not need to be exposed. My children will not be watching this series.”
Another even accused Netflix of promoting “child abuse,” adding: “I didn’t know who or what I was at that age. I was Rapunzel with long hair one day and then a french waiter with a beret the next. Sweet Jesus, enough.”
Those criticizing Netflix’s decision to pursue the storyline, or, in some cases, directing ad hominem attacks at Dommu, have had their comments amplified through conservative media.
Tony Perkins, the president of the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, recently penned a column for the Daily Signal, a publication of the conservative Heritage Foundation, blasting the series for touching on controversial issues.
“There’s an entire generation of moms today who wouldn’t think twice about sitting their kids down in front of Netflix’s new “Baby-Sitters Club” show. And that, experts warn, is exactly the problem,” wrote Perkins. “Like so many other women, they’re expecting the same innocent storylines they came to love from Ann Martin’s books in the ’80s and ’90s. What they’re getting is anything but.
“Say goodbye to the regular cast of characters — and hello to 21st-century lessons in transgenderism, sex, dating apps, divorce, and feminism.”
But others praised the show for broaching the transgender issue.
“I LOVED THIS EPISODE SO MUCH and when I commenter on the Insta of the girl who plays Mary Anne, she liked it,” wrote another Twitter user. “And so did the little girl who plays Bailey.”
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