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Would you write a book like this?

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I know a lot of stories on AD cater to the younger crowd but I don't think we look at the pre-teen audience. It makes sense for parents of a transgender leaning kid to find books that give them a sense of self identity, and there are far too few to choose from.

I don't know if I would be comfortable writing something like this, I don't have the background which might prepare me to do it well. Thinking like a child is difficult enough when my characters are teenagers. We might pull our thinking from personal experience but pre-adolescence seems so far distant in the past I would certainly fail if I tried to make a story relevant to that age group.

But it seems some adults can do just that, how special:


Would anyone here even try to write a children's book, much less one about transgender kids? I agree with the opinion's author, there is a need, a great need for books like this.

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I've thought about writing a kid's book. I think I could do it, but haven't tried. Kids are pretty much asexual, which would make it easier. The thing is, I'm interested in teens, and not so much in little kids. Teens are experiencing so many new things, are learning the the world isn't always the nice place it was when most of them were littler, that they have to make important decisions and that those decisions have consequences. They're learning who they are and how best to interface with the world. For me, that's fascinating stuff to write about, a kid developing into an adult, or any phase of that along the way.

I don't have the same interest in exploring a kid's world. There are lots of writers out there that do this, and do it extremely well. I may try at some point because I like challenges. But that would the reason--the challenge. Not the empathy I have for teenagers, and I think that empathy helps when writing.


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I agree, I think you would be very good at creating children's books, Cole. Young children are asexual, although they have curiosity towards the subject of sex just as they do towards most knowledge. I think they are just trying to figure out what adults know that they don't.

The reviews on the Polkadot book are interesting and so I have included the link here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18478943-meet-polkadot

Teachers and parents seem to find the value in this kind of book, and the age limit of the reader varies widely. Interesting to discover that one teacher read the book to a group of 9th graders who had favorable reactions. I love illustrated books so perhaps I should go see if I can find the thing...probably not in our city library, and I am definitely not going to prowl around the children's book section looking for it. Amazon used books here I come.

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My childhood had access to the most common kids' books. Enid Blyton's fabulous and famous stories were a favourite. Without Enid I would never have learned to read. Then there was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table written by Roger Lancelyn Green in 1953 when I was but 9 years old, When I was much younger my grandmother read me the Noddy stories from her English Woman's Weekly magazine. Winnie the Poo was another favourite.

Peter Pan is a delightful cloud of memories for me, as in the pantomime my mother took me to see when I was 7. I remember saying to her that I never wanted to grow up. She told me that sadly, I would.

In 1953 the Disney feature film of Peter Pan confirmed for me that I wanted to live on the Island of Lost Boys; with the lost boys, who I was certain I would find enchanting. I had no desire to do anything with Wendy or Tinkerbell, cute as they were.

1953 was a very full year as it featured the movie, Knights of the Round Table, and I had become devoted to chivalry and rescuing a damsel in distress...or was it that I wanted to be the damsel being rescued by a cavalcade of knights in shining armour? I think I wanted to rescue a knight for a night.

However, if any film was to subliminally affect my sexuality it was, in 1953, Doris Day's Calamity Jane. (I want to be an Indian too.) The sexual innuendos in Calamity Jane must have been placed in the movie to test the censors. Of course I didn't know anything about that or the innuendos when I was 9 or 10 years old. Sex didn't exist before eleven in those days, and then after that only if you were lucky or unlucky as the case might be.

So by my 12th birthday my dreams were filled with fantasies. Goodness knows which of the movies or books about Tarzan with his collection of African natives invaded my dreams, and tied me to a stake, only to be rescued by my knights in shining armour who assisted Peter Pan's lost boys in rescuing me and then protecting me from Indians and cowboys of various sizes and nefarious delights which, completely baffled my young mind.

Behind the white picket fences of the 1950s, there lurked the guarded knowledge of getting to know someone - in the Biblical sense, whatever that was. It was a bit like Santa Claus; we kids pretended that we didn't know that our parents left the presents for us after we went to sleep on Christmas Eve. Similarly we guessed what sex was, but we didn't have to pretend we didn't understand. The truth was, despite our guess, we had no interest once we got past the idea of how children were conceived. We were in fact more interested in playing normal hide and seek rather than hide the sausage.

Hormones would change that, and we would respond to them with who we were.

What we need is stories for the parents to understand that kids know what they want. The kids dream about it, and they want their freedom to live their lives with loving understanding and celebration.

Can it be possible to write stories about a kid having two parents of the same gender without encroaching on the child's freedom to grow into the person they are? Of course it is, but how do we adults write a story without pretending that we know what's best? I don't even begin to claim that I understand how to write stories for kids about the acceptance of sexual expression in their future lives as consenting adults.

In my own life I was lucky enough to throw the shackles of indoctrination out the door of the closet before I understood my sexuality. Maybe stories that prepare kids to accept whomever they discover themselves to be, without guilt or a sense of shame, is as far as we can go.

Good luck with getting that past the censors.

My guess is that one of the new younger generation will be able to write such stories better than we oldies ever could.

It's our job to lay the groundwork for them to have the freedom to do so.

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The page on the Advocate website kept changing to a pop-up ad for me, so I was able to grab a static page of the text. Here's the editorial:

Op-ed: The Stories That Gender-Nonconforming Kids Need
Children’s literature is too often a tale of two genders.
What I remember most about being a kid is how small the world felt. Each day was predictably linear: wake up, go to school, come home, do homework, read in bed, go to sleep.
As adults we still follow a daily schedule that is also often predictable and structured, but the difference now is we have outlets — outlets we create for ourselves that provide a release from the confines of routine, that let us relax and imagine and daydream for a while.
As a gender-nonconforming kid, these moments were more about escape than they were release. They were times of solitude I spent only with a picture book or building blocks, to grow my world just a little bit. It’s not that my reality was dark and unhappy. I just couldn’t find my place in it.
My struggle with gender identity became increasingly difficult when I couldn’t even feel a sense of belonging in books, an outlet that brought me to a fictional world. These stories and fairytales provided an escape to fantastical places where animals could talk and treasure actually was buried under the letter “X,” but when the story gave any semblance of reality, I felt isolated and shut out.
Too quickly kids are placed on either a blue or a pink path. And they are expected to follow it. Children who stray from this binary are often seen as lost, confused, or in some sort of phase. But that isn’t the case. They are “both” and “neither,” and they need resources to confirm that is OK. They need stories that look, sound, and feel like them. Parents of queer and gender-nonconforming children have resources, like gender therapists, pediatricians, and guidebooks to help understand and foster a child’s gender development, but the child is often left to their own devices. In many cases, the only place a child has full agency to explore and educate themself is in a library.
What gender-nonconforming children need are media, particularly books, in which they can see themselves.
Lori Duron is the author of Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising A Fabulous, Gender-Creative Son, and proud mother of C.J., a gender-nonconforming 7-year-old. C.J. has identified as gender-nonconforming since age 4. One of his favorite books is My Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis. Like C.J., the story’s protagonist is a boy who likes pink and wears dresses. This book shows C.J. another boy like him, and this reflection of self encourages him to celebrate and take pride in his own identity. Though in many ways this story mirrors C.J.’s gender expression, it may not draw the same parallels for another boy that also identifies as nonconforming.
“[When we] read My Princess Boy, I am showing [C.J.] kids like himself, but I am not showing him other types of kids,” says Duron. Just as she wants cisgender children to accept C.J., she wants him to understand and accept their gender expression, too.
For this broader understanding, Todd Parr is a favorite in the Duron household. His book, It’s Okay to be Different illustrates cultural, physical, and emotional differences, while teaching readers to celebrate individuality. Its outreaching and relatable message of acceptance is inclusive and warm, and shows kids that identity is something complex that should be explored, not confined to a singular definition.
Author Talcott Broadhead explores this complexity in the children’s book series, “Meet Polkadot.” The main character is named Polkadot, a non-binary, trans kid. The books grow with Polkadot to reflect how each milestone of childhood is informed by the social construct of gender. The story is not just about Polkadot’s identity, but about how it relates to the world around Polkadot.
This young character is taking our hand and leading us in the direction we need children’s literature to move. But the reality is, adults take the lead. Even for a family like the Durons, who foster and encourage their child’s nonconforming gender expression, these books are often distributed by small publishers and are difficult to find. Schools and public libraries are often resistant to add them to their shelves, deeming their subject matter inappropriate for a classroom. But it is the child who does not have love and support at home that needs these resources in school the most.
Children’s books are meant to provoke a sense of wonder about the world. They should inspire and enhance reality, not just provide an escape from it. Books that include themes about nonconforming gender expression have the potential to be radical tools for social change. They allow for complex themes delivered simply, that allow a child’s small world to grow and expand.
If children’s literature continues to exclude this population that desperately needs them, the book industry is failing to complete its mission. We need books for gender-nonconforming children that present a spirit of optimism and rejection of impossibility. Granting children a confidence and self-assuredness early in life, through these stories and books, would make for much happier tales of growing up as gender-nonconforming.
Kids are smart, and often pragmatic, and logical. They know they can’t be elves and wizards like in the books they read. But they should know they are still capable of magic.
CAMERON KEADY is an assistant editor at Time For Kids, a freelance news and culture writer for Refinery29, and a contributing editor for Gayletter.com.
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I don't dispute that all children need role-models of some kind, but the problem I have here is that not everybody who has problems identifying with one gender or the other necessarily needs a book about a 6-year-old or a 10-year-old who's ready to have sexual reassignment surgery. I think you have to give the kids time to figure out what they want out of life and who they are, and they'll come up with the answers on their own.

What does need to be done is to simply encourage tolerance for people who are different. This is already happening; I noted the other day where Facebook now has something like 50 different gender options to help people who are not exactly one way or the other on the sliding scale of masculine, feminine, gay, straight, or bisexual:



As long as kids understand there are options for them once they're of age, at least they'll be aware that they're not alone in the world and that they can be accepted. I'm not sure that fictional books for kids under 12 are what's needed to explain what they're going through; it's more a question of making others sympathetic and understanding enough to give them room to be comfortable in their own skin.

Having said that, you're gonna get beat up if you're a boy going to school in a dress, at least in America. It may not be right, but it's true. I think there's a time and a place where everything should be tolerated, but there's also limitations. There may be a day 20 or 30 or 40 years from now where absolutely nobody will care what somebody wears to work or to school, but if you're causing distractions in those environments, it's gonna be trouble. (I'd have the same problem with a girl who dresses like a prostitute, or a boy who wore a full football uniform to class. Just not appropriate.) Dressing within a certain scale of reasonableness is what you have to do in most kinds of society. But I do think people and children have the right to be honest with themselves and others as to how they regard their own identity.

Hey, if Ellen can wear a man's tux on the Oscars, anything is possible.

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I am reminded of an event that took place in North Carolina a decade or so ago. In this day and age when bullying at school seems rampant and school officials less that capable of dealing with it, I think this principal did exactly the right thing.

A boy of Scottish ancestry wore a kilt to school on St. Patrick's day because he was tired of being teased by those of Irish descent. The boy's family were part of that group who participated in the Highland Games which is held each year up on Grandfather Mountain. But of course he was teased and punched for wearing a dress to school because if there is one common denominator in many NC schools it is the ignorance of the youth culture.

The principal became aware of the bullying and sentenced the perpetrators to a three hour detention at school the following Saturday. When the four bullies arrived with their parents they were all hustled into the auditorium and seated in the first row. After a few moments of silence a horrible wail filled the room and eight bagpipers marched out onto the stage. Standing there among family and friends was the victim of these bullies, who was proudly playing his pipes.

Imagine three hours of that! The moral of the story: don't pick on a Scottish kid when your principal's name is MacGregor.

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Raised a smile here!

Tops my wearing highland dress (kilt, sporran, jacket etc) on the London Underground. My excuse was I went to a retirement party, wore the dress for that as the retiree was very Scottish and I could not be bothered to change. And it has to be said a little devil on my right shoulder suggesting I went home that way.

The dirk however was in my bag - even I'm not quite that silly.

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It struck me as interesting that Cole says that he would only consider writing stories for children for the challenge, lacking empathy.

Des on the other hand refers to the inevitable Enid Blyton... the iconic children's author of all time (What was the sinister hold that Big-ears had over Mr Plod the policeman?).

The curious thing of course is that Enid Blyton was so self absorbed that her treatment of her own children left them scarred for life... in a later age Children's Services might have come knocking... so maybe Cole should have another go... If Enid is anything to go by there is no evidence that empathy is needed.

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From Wiki re Enid:


She is estimated to have written about 800 books over 40 years,..selling more than 600 million copies.


A number of libraries and schools consequently banned her works, which had already been banned by the BBC since the 1930s for their perceived lack of literary merit.

I can't see Cole's stories being banned for lack of literary merit.

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A number of libraries and schools consequently banned her works, which had already been banned by the BBC since the 1930s for their perceived lack of literary merit.

I can't see Cole's stories being banned for lack of literary merit.

I don't know about that. Has the BBC seen any of his stories yet? Somehow I'm not sure they can be trusted.

Colin :icon_geek:

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As to books written especially for the pre-teen market, I'd point to Tim Federle's Nate series as being amazingly good, very contemporary, and also extremely funny:


If I knew an under-13-year-old kid who might question his sexuality, this is the book I'd recommend (and the sequel, Five Six Seven Nate). The kid in the book is not necessarily gay, but let's just say he loves Broadway musicals, just got a role in a major play, and seems to be, uh, somewhat fabulous.

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Thanks to my enlightened local public library I've just finished reading this delightful story: it is at times exhilarating, at times sophomoric and a little clumsy, in some places obscure unless you know the special language of the professional theatre. It is filled with crackling ideas, fantastic events, and situations that come to life due to characters that are drawn with love and understanding. It has opened my eyes to the wit, wisdom, and level of sophistication apparently available to young readers, if this is a sample of the kind of books out there.

It could be a perfect book for a young reader struggling with personal worth or sexual identity issues. It cannot be relied upon to realistically explain how to survive in New York City (I'm surprised the lead character made it ten feet off the bus) or how to get cast in a professional theatre production (I'm surprised the lead character made it ten feet beyond the sign-in desk), but perhaps it will excite and motivate many young readers to gain confidence in themselves to reach out toward such a goal.

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I've been reading Better Nate Than Ever on my tablet as I ride BART to and from work. It's laugh-out-loud funny, which gets me some stares from other passengers.

Colin :icon_geek:

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I ordered a copy, and the publisher says it's being back-ordered because they ran out of stock.

It was an Entertainment Weekly pick for "book of the month" or something, and sales went through the roof. I can see why.

Can you imagine what it might have been like if we had had a book like this when we were 12 or 13, back in the stone ages?

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