The Young V&A, a branch of the English Victoria and Albert Museum meant for children, has recently come under criticism by its staff after its director Tristram Hunt decided to remove two trans-affirming books from its store. Hunt also removed a poster from an exhibition that read “Some people are trans, get over it!”
The works were taken away just before the Young V&A’s reopening on July 1.
According to reporting by Arts Professional, Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members at the V&A and the V&A Staff LGBTQ Working Group had a meeting with Hunt, requesting that the materials be reinstated, which they said he refused to do.
In a letter by V&A staff shared with Arts Professional, staff wrote, “The unified message from all attendees was that we do not support the decision to remove the object, that this decision undermines the V&A’s ability to expand our audiences, that the decision is not in line with the V&A’s values, it is not in the public interest, the decision undermines the editorial independence of curators, which may very well lead to self-censorship, is of a disservice to the visitors we serve, and a direct affront to trans visitors and staff.”
The two books removed were Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression by Kacen Callendar and Here and Queer: A Queer Girl’s Guide to Life by Rowan Ellis. In a comment to the Art Newspaper, the Young V&A explained that the works were removed because they were not considered age-appropriate by senior staff.
“The two books that were removed ahead of opening from the Young V&A shop range have a recommended reading age of 14+, which is above the age of the Young V&A audience (who are 0-14). We are exploring alternatives for our target age range,” a Young V&A spokesperson told the Art Newspaper.
The Young V&A did not respond to a query from ARTnews about why the poster was removed and if it was also deemed not age-appropriate.
Meanwhile, the UK-based anti-trans organization Transgender Trend applauded Hunt’s decision to remove the works from the museum, writing in a Twitter post, “We wholeheartedly support the removal of the Stonewall poster and two books on ‘queer identities’ from Young V&A.” The group thanked Hunt for “prioritising the safeguarding of children.”
A similar “Ed-Scare” in the United States had led to states across the country banning books that represent trans characters. A picture book titled I Am Jazz, about the trans activist Jazz Jennings, was reportedly one of the most banned books in the United States, alongside other titles about LGBTQ+ characters.