Reflecting LGBT/Gender Queer Kids

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?


5 Comments on “Reflecting LGBT/Gender Queer Kids”

  1. Hello! When is the last time i told you i love this? seriously!
    I hope the attached list is not redundant; something you are already aware of… and i am sure some of these titles are too ‘mature’ for the 5 -12ish set… but i thought i would give it a try. This is the multnomah county library’s (portland, or) lgbtq reading list for teens.. i am searching for tweens!


  2. Queer Kid's Mom says:

    tpl! Thanks so much. Thanks for the list too-it’s great. Some of the books sound like they will be pitched pretty well for the 10-12 age group. If you find more lists send them my way!


  3. maddox says:

    I just discovered your blog and I am enthralled by your stories of support and your precocious (only in wisdom) child.

    I am usually on the hunt for new LGBTQ books to read, and yes, there is a dearth of literature for pre-teens. I can’t imagine a better world where a kid can pick up a book and read about the prince and the princess, or the princess and the princess. Why not? As for “teaching them to be gay” – well, they’re trying very damn hard to teach them to be straight, and how’s that working out? We need to teach diversity and respect.

    For your child, I’ll recommend reading Ash (if you haven’t already) – it might be a bit of a long or heavy read, but I think it’s very approachable even for a younger kid, and it has that fairy tale feel to it.

    • Queer Kid's Mom says:

      Thanks so much. I’ll check out Ash.

      Great observations! Diversity and respect–you are absolutely correct. If society was more embracing of difference kids could enjoy being kids more, without the fear of being singled out or harassed. My goal is to do everything to let her enjoy being a kid, while she is a kid. And to be able to be herself while she is young.

  4. Paula G V aka Yukimi says:

    Have you thought about manga? Some of them are age appropriate and deal with LGBTQ stories. You would need to screen until you found one that fit the bill but there are many out there and I think the fact they have pictures along with text might make them more appealing for tweens. I’m currently hooked up with Aoi Hana (a lesbian story) and Hourou Musuko/wandering son (a story about a girl who wants to be a boy and a boy who wants to be a girl that starts when they are both in the 5th grade) both by Shimura Takako although I admit they might not be what you are looking for but the market is quite big and for Yuri (lesbian stories) I recommend blogs like Okazu and Yuricon. There isn’t much problem finding Yaoi/BL but you need to be careful to avoid the high number of explicit stories.

    I don’t know if this helps but that’s my 0.02 cents. Watching certain anime when I was a kid was what gave me the hint I was bisexual (Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, …) so I guess I have fond feelings for it although as I’m a book worm, manga is my favourite consumtion form heh.

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