Pizza Hut Delivers Outrage over Transgender Book Promotion
Over the weekend, Pizza Hut was trending on Twitter, but the topic wasn’t new toppings or a dinner deal — it involved their stance on Pride Month. Social media users slammed the franchise for recommending a book about a young boy dressing in drag in their children’s book club program BOOK IT.
Since 1984, Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT program has encouraged pre-K children through Grade 6 to read. Parents or teachers set monthly reading goals for their students and record how many hours they read. Once the child meets their reading goal, they are rewarded with a free one-topping personal pan pizza.
Heather Smithson, a stay-at-home mom in Newkirk, Oklahoma was first introduced to the program through her local homeschool group.
In an interview with The Washington Stand, she said, “It was really great to encourage them to do some reading and saying, ‘Okay, if you get this many books or so many hours in, then you get a pizza.’ And so every month it was something that they could look forward to,” Smithson recalled.
Since Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT was such an “enjoyable” literacy program for children, it shocked the mother of four to receive an email from them suggesting LGBT+ books to read during Pride Month.
“Perfectly Pegasus,” “Big Wig,” and “Be Amazing: A History of Pride” are the three books on the reading list. One of the stories, Big Wig, narrates a tale of a young boy dressing in drag, which the BOOK IT website described as “the universal childhood experience of dressing up and the confidence that comes with putting on a costume.”
Smithson said she wishes corporations like Pizza Hut would remain “neutral” on matters of sexuality and allow parents to “determine what is or isn’t appropriate.”
“Children, developmentally, are not prepared to deal with this stuff. Let them be children. Let them dress up because they want to dress up, not because they want to be a boy or a girl,” said Smithson. “It’s like we’re stealing their innocence.”
But the executives at Pizza Hut have a very different view.
In a statement on their official website, Project Associate, Danielle Burns wrote, “Pride Month is bold, lively, and colorful — but it’s also about educating others about tolerance, LGBTQ+ history, and continuing to move forward with equality. We invite you to stand together with us as we live out our company value, “Believe in ALL People.”
Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, shared that she participated in Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT program as a child and so did her kids.
“Unfortunately, Pizza Hut now is on the list of people who want to talk to your children about sex. And parents need to be aware that that list is growing by the day,” Kilgannon said. “And it’s, sadly, a statement on the state of our society that this is a problem that requires constant vigilance to protect the innocence of our children.”
While concerned citizens took to social media to declare their boycott of Pizza Hut, Kilgannon hopes their activism also includes a dialogue with corporate. While boycotts are a useful tool, she thinks engaging in conversations is just as important. If you’re a parent, Kilgannon urges, make sure to reach out as Smithson did to voice your disappointment in BOOK IT promoting Pride Month.
“I think it would be better to say, ‘I’d really like to continue eating at Pizza Hut, and I wish that you valued me as much as you seem to value these other communities.’”