Did Tennessee Republicans Ban The Seahorse Book Because It Normalized Gender Fluctuation?


Republicans in Tennessee “are trying to ban a book about seahorses, claiming it normalizes gender fluctuation and the idea that men can get pregnant.”




The Williamson County, Tennessee chapter of Moms for Liberty does not represent Tennessee Republicans as a whole, but that advocacy group has attempted — unsuccessfully — to have a book about seahorses removed from a first grade curriculum, in part over concerns about of content would normalize the concept of gender fluidity.

On February 22, 2023, a viral tweet accused Tennessee Republicans of “attempting to ban a book about seahorses, claiming it normalizes gender fluidity and the idea that men can get pregnant.”

Based on the alleged objections in the tweet, it is clear that this tweet is a reference to a fight being waged by the Williamson County branch of the right-wing political group Moms for Liberty, and not by the GOP or the Tennessee political leadership a whole.

This chapter was formed, at least in part, to object to reading recommendations made in a curriculum recently adopted in this county—“Wit & Wisdom.” explained from the Tennessean in June 2021:

One of the most vocal groups was the Williamson County Chapter of Moms for Liberty… The group includes members with children inside and outside of Williamson County Schools. The group shared their insights from reviewing several Wit & Wisdom books with audiences at their CRT 101 event last month.

That Moms for Liberty “Multiple Book Reviews” contained complaints about a book and accompanying video called “Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea.” Both complaints in the 2023 viral tweet are from this review. From the offensive content found in the book Moms for Liberty listed:

[M]ating seahorses with pictures of positions[sic], and discussion of the male bearing the eggs. Describes how they have sex, how long they have sex, only male fish get pregnant and bend[,] push and push.

From the offensive content found in the video accompanying this book, Moms for Liberty listed several quotes:

Quotes from the video: “a mating pair of orange pygmy seahorses”, “scientists watched the male and female seahorses perform their daily courtship dance”, “they saw the baby seahorses jump out of their father’s brood pouch” and the final line from the video: “We humans tend to think of who we are as largely fixed, but in the ocean, identity can be a fluid and mysterious thing.”

Moms for Liberty also raised concerns about gender fluidity documented in a report prepared by a joint committee of parents and educators following the Moms for Liberty campaign:

The complainants stated during the hearing that the book was “socially conditioned,” that there were concerns that the book and video were “trying to normalize that men can get pregnant,” and that the “suggestion that gender fluidity is, is too early” to be taught in the first grade. The book paired with the video was noted to “point to an agenda.”

Ultimately, this committee did not agree with Moms for Liberty’s assessment of the book and video, although it recommended that they not be read aloud two sides of the book (below) describing and illustrating seahorse copulation:


As explained by seahorse researchers Jessica Suzanne Dudley and Camilla Whittington in The Conversation, this is a fairly accurate account of the scientific process by which new seahorses are created:

In seahorses and pipefish, it is the male who conceives and gives birth. Seahorse fathers incubate their developing embryos in a pouch attached to their tail.

The pouch is the equivalent of the uterus of female mammals. It contains a placenta that supports the growth and development of baby seahorses.

Seahorse fathers provide nutrients and oxygen to their babies during pregnancy, using some of the same genetic instructions as mammalian pregnancy.

Moms for Liberty, though a increasingly prominent Group in the anti-CRT movement and broader national Republican Party, is not affiliated with the Tennessee Republican Party or with that state’s leadership.

While Moms for Liberty may not have attempted to “ban” this seahorse book outright, they did attempt to remove it from a curriculum. Furthermore, these concerns stemmed, at least in part, from the perception of a gender fluidity agenda lurking in an illustrated book on seahorse reproduction.

For these reasons, the declaration is a “mixture”.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/seahorse-book-ban/ Did Tennessee Republicans Ban The Seahorse Book Because It Normalized Gender Fluctuation?

Brian Ashcraft

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