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The Boy in the Dress | David Walliams

“The Boy in the Dress” was an intriguing title for a children’s novel. I feared the worst when I saw it sitting in a children’s library and yes, it is indeed about cross dressing. It seems to be a very popular book, read by scores of children since its publication in 2008, and probably stocked in many school and council libraries. It is by David Walliams, of the TV show Little Britain and most recently a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. He has rising popularity and influence in the entertainment industry as an actor, comedian, television presenter and began writing books in 2008.

Basic summary: 12 year old Dennis was “different”, liking women’s clothes and keeping a Vogue magazine under his mattress. Mum is not on the scene. Dad and big brother are archetypal unenlightened emotionally stunted working class males. A local girl persuades Dennis to try on a dress – “it felt different to wearing normal boy’s clothes. The fabric felt so unfamiliar next to his skin – all silky and smooth.” “She rolled the lipstick gently across his lips. It felt weird. Nice, but weird.”
“Dressing up had made him feel like he didn’t have to be boring Dennis ….. anymore. I can be whoever I want to be! He thought.”

He begins to pretend to be a girl outside the house, and at school. One of his male friends fancies him and asks for a date. He is eventually found out and expelled by the Headmaster, who has been set up as a nasty, outdated and vindictive character. Following a sequence of events that results in lots of boys wearing dresses in order to win a football cup final (don’t ask!), Dennis’s dad and brother see the light and accept his transvestite activities as unimportant and the family experiences deep emotional healing and relational restoration as a result. Dennis’s fellow pupils come to accept and respect his dressing as a girl.

The only remaining disapproving baddy is the Headmaster. No sooner has the local newsagent declared that, “Those people who are so quick to judge, be they teachers, politicians or religious leaders or whatever, are normally up to far worse themselves, ”than the Headmaster is exposed as a transvestite: “You know, it’s not always easy being a Headmaster…… I need to dress up like this to unwind.”

The blatant preaching of the book is as subtle as a brick, clearly aiming to normalise, destigmatise, glamorise, and justify cross dressing, in accordance with the author’s personal views and experiences.
I read lots of reviews on line. Most were glowing, some baulked at unsuitable details such as mentions of porn magazines etc, but none I found questioned the central theme.

But I’m sure that a vast majority of parents would be concerned if their son started cross dressing, but I guess that schools, booksellers, publishers and libraries think they know best.

I assume this book would be regarded by many as promoting the T (transgender) part of LBGT rights, combating prejudice etc etc.. The word “transphobic” is already in use. However, this book does not address the complex and difficult issues faced by those who have difficulties with their gender, but promoted cross dressing as a casual leisure activity. Surely it is reasonable to expect that casual cross dressing could lead to or exacerbate gender alignment problems. It is also deceitful.

The Old Testament law prohibited cross dressing, and I can see the sense in that. Our secular culture, on the other hand, is intent on dissolving or blurring every distinction between male and female, starting with children.
Parents must pray for God’s wisdom to guide their children as they grow up encountering such an ethos. Churches should help Christians understand these issues and influence children positively in this area.

Written by: Richard Lucas