Books for and About Transgender Children: More Than You Think, Less Than We Need


Children’s books with gender nonconforming/transgender protagonists are rare, but over the past year or so there have been some encouraging signs of progress. If you read my post a few days ago about the new Rainbow Bibliography, you may have noticed a couple of relevant new books for elementary school children: Jennifer Carr’s Be Who You Areabout a child born biologically male who knows she is really a girl, and  Shimura Takako’s graphic novel Wandering Son, which has both a gender variant girl and boy as protagonists.

The books take their place alongside two previous children’s books that have gender nonconforming/transgender protagonists, 10,000 Dresses, by Marcus Ewert (see my interview with him here), and My Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis. Both Carr and Takako target readers just a wee bit older than the other two. Carr’s is still very much an elementary school book, but heavier on the words. Takako’s protagonists are in fifth grade, and will likely appeal to both older elementary and early middle school students.

In addition, author and theater artist S. Bear Bergman has launched the Flamingo Rampant project to produce books for trans-identified elementary school children. Bear is trying to gather funds via Kickstarter to produce not only print books, but also “full-featured video storybooks” that include read-along subtitles, voice-description for blind/visually-impaired users, and inset American Sign Language storytelling. Even  better, the first two books planned include (separately) both a boy who wants to live as a girl and a girl who wants to live as a boy. (I have no connection to the project myself, but had the pleasure of being on a panel with Bear last year about being an LGBT parent in the workplace.)

If you have further interest in the topic, you may also want to check out B.J. Epstein’s recent piece at HuffPo on books for transgender children and youth. She discusses 10,000 Dresses and My Princess Boy, but unfortunately misses Carr’s and Takako’s works. She does, however, note two books for young adults, Julie Anne Peters’ Luna and Ellen Wittlinger’s Parrotfish. (There are also a good handful of others for young adults, including Brian Katcher’s Almost Perfect and several on this year’s Rainbow Bibliography. But that’s a whole other post.)

Parents of transgender and gender nonconforming children should also stay tuned for Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children. It’s not out until May, but available for pre-order now. (And while we’re on the subject, don’t forget Stephanie Brill’s The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals.)

Keep in mind that children’s books with transgender and gender nonconforming characters are good not only for children who may identify with them, but also for siblings, friends, and others to help them understand the great diversity of this thing called gender.

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