I continue to hunt for good books for LGBT/gender queer kids and tweens. I am looking for books that celebrate their identities or at least make their identities a part of a story that is not about overcoming/surviving bullying/self-hatred/family rejection.
Today the Huffington Post published an article Dreaming of Dresses: Transgender Books for Children. The author B.J. Epstein is spot on when she writes about the need for more books for the five to twelve year-old set.
I am unfortunately aware of no texts about transgender characters for readers between five and twelve or so. However, there are a couple of picture books, which at least can be used with children up until the age of five or six, regardless of whether they are themselves trans or know any trans people.
My Princess Boy, which is by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone, is about a boy who likes pink and enjoys wearing tiaras and other princess clothes. While there is no indication that this boy is transgender, in that he seems to identify as a boy, the book is positive in that the boy is accepted for who he is and how he likes to dress.
This is a strong message to pass on to children. It doesn’t matter if the princess boy is transgender or not, if he will grow up to identify as a transvestite, if he will be straight or gay or bisexual; for now, he is a little boy who likes pink sparkly dresses, and that’s completely fine with his relatives, classmates and teachers.
As Epstein notes, the princess boy is awesome as he is in this moment. It is not important if he grows up to be gay or transgendered or so on. This is message that needs to be hear more frequently . . . yes, here comes my “but.”
Books about Gay Characters for Kids
I think we need to add to the corpus of books for LGBT/Gender-Nonconforming kids with books that offer narratives for kids that identify as LGB too. Little girls read Cinderella and watch endless hours of princess stories and most parents don’t find them overly sexualized or problematic–of course many of us criticize those stories as anti-feminist, yet it is just about impossible to shield our kids from the complete domination that those stories have on the three to nine-year old entertainment market.
What if we began to write princess meets princess or prince meets prince overcomes hardship/evil witch/awful stepmother, and then finds romance and domestic bliss in a well-appointed castle, fairy tales? Would there be an outcry of this is “teaching kids to be gay”? What if these books were shelved between Peter Pan and Snow White in the library and any kid might read them?
That might result in tolerance and understanding before children even enrolled in kindergarten.
There are plenty of books about kids having gay parents and that is wonderful, but young readers are meant to identify with the children in those stories not the parents.
My tween needs books in which the hero/heroine is gay, but that isn’t the entire story. I’d like to note that the comic Runaways, Volume 8, “Dead End Kids” written by Joss Whedon fits the bill beautifully, but it is not suitable for younger readers.
One last note: anyone know a introduction to puberty and sexuality book for tweens that addresses LGBT issues? As my baby says in In Her Own Words:
We want to be taught who we are. In sex ed we want to be taught what to do with our lives. I don’t want to learn about something I’m not. If they’re not going to give me a proper education, what’s the point?
I love how our queer kid has changed our lives.
Because of her . . .
I work harder to make the world better for all queer kids.
I have the chance to participate in her own amazing, unique journey.
I see the world through different eyes.
I am more courageous.
I demand more authenticity and truthfulness from myself. If she is going to put her identity on the line, I better do it too.
I have a great role model to follow.
I am a better person.
Thank you, my sweet girl. I love you.
Slate.com article When Do Gay Kids Start “Acting Gay?” from September 2011.
This article may make some problematic connections, especially for those who argue that early childhood behavior should not be used as a indicator of a child’s future self identification. Queerty blogger Raising My Rainbow certainly got an earful about this from her commenters (look back through some of her earlier posts. Geesh.).
I do wonder how people who’ve never met our kids can make such authoritative statements . . . .
Nevertheless, this article does a nice job of furthering the argument that some children exhibit same-sex crushes before they know how to describe them. And nowadays many children are gaining the vocabulary to describe their feelings quite early, like the six-year-old son of “Amelia” (also at Huff Post). She wrote about her son’s crush on Blaine from Glee in her post “Mommy, they are just like me” over at Tumblr.