David Walliams’s cross-dressing children’s book sparks outrage among Aldi Australia customers

By @chelean on
Comedian David Walliams attends the 50 Years of James Bond Auction at Christies in London, October 5, 2012.
Comedian David Walliams attends the 50 Years of James Bond Auction at Christies in London, October 5, 2012. Reuters/Neil Hall

British comedian David Walliams has unwittingly entered Australia’s same-sex marriage debate after some parents complained about his book “The Book in the Dress” being sold at Aldi supermarkets. The “Britain’s Got Talent” judge and children’s books author apparently “promotes transgenderism” among kids.

The said title, with illustrations by Quentin Blake and published in 2008, was Walliams’ first book. It tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who cross-dresses. It aims to discuss cross-dressing as something healthy and acceptable for boys.

On Monday when Aldi posted a competition to win books, some customers were aghast that “The Boy in the Dress” is included. Other parents claimed that Walliams and Aldi supermarkets were joining the “bullies” in the marriage equality debate. One customer was even angry that an alleged self-confessed pansexual, referring to Walliams, was allowed to sell his books at Aldi.

“Excuse me, ALDI Australia, but why are you peddling the child abuse that is ‘The Boy in the Dress,’ a novel that promotes children cross-dressing? Are you joining the genderless bully brigade?” a Facebook user wrote on the supermarket giant’s official page.

“Yes, google this author who wrote THE BOY IN THE DRESS admits he is pansexual?? Aldi should NOT BE SELLING HIS BOOKS. Aldi is joining the bullies. Shame on you Aldi,” another user wrote.

Not everyone thought the book was offensive. One customer has a solution for those offended by the book: “If you don’t like it… don’t buy it.” Others also defended it, saying the book has positive message for children in a similar situation.

“I believe that it’s a story about acceptance and solidarity,” a commenter wrote. “Such a shame that these positive messages seem to be lost on some…”

Those against same-sex marriage in Australia reportedly felt that those who are for it are pushing their agenda aggressively, much like to the point of bullying. Aldi’s latest book promo is apparently another one of such bullying tactics because of the inclusion of Walliams’ book.

Walliams said he could not believe such debate is still happening today. “It is disappointing when people express these attitudes, but that is why I wrote the book in the first place, to hopefully change the way people think and feel about this subject,” he was quoted by the Guardian as saying. “It is 10 years since the book was published and now boys go to school in dresses as Dennis from The Boy in the Dress for World Book Day. So I think we are heading in the right direction, to a world where being different can be celebrated.”

Aldi Australia, meanwhile, had “no intention” of removing the book from its stores. “The book tells the story of freedom of expression and tolerance,” a spokeswoman said in a statement (via news.com.au). “This forms part of a range from David Walliams, the third biggest children’s book author in Australia, and is available throughout a number of major retailers.”

“The Book in the Dress” was adapted for television in 2014 as a TV film. Walliams had won multiple Specsavers National Book Awards for his other children’s books titles.