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6 Kids Books For Trans Day of Resilience
Sharing this post on social media? Use this description to make it accessible: [Image description: Illustration from ‘When Aidan Became A Brother,’ by Kyle Lukoff & Kaylani Juanita. A young, transgender, multiracial boy wearing a cape, cargo shorts, and bunny slippers. His cape is made from scraps of old dresses his parents gave him that he didn’t feel comfortable in, and one of the patches resembles the trans pride flag. He looks into the distance with pride and determination, holding a stick as a make-believe magical staff.]
How can adults support trans kids?
- Stop centering themselves in discussions about their child’s gender.
- Stop outing their kids on the internet before kids are old enough to understand and consent to the ramifications.
- Find, listen, boost, and support adults who share their child’s identity.
- When a kid tells you their gender, believe them.
I also asked her – What are the three most important things she would tell younger trans people?
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It’s getting too cumbersome to regularly update these posts as I find new books – so I’ll only include the ones the Earthquakes asked to read over and over and over right here. But you can find a deeper, comprehensive list of trans-kid-approved validating, normalizing & destigmatizing stories over here. I’ll be updating it regularly, in our Bookshop list of Kids Books on Transgender Representation & Resilience.
- When Aidan Became A Brother – Validating & shows kids how to be an accomplice for the next generation.
- Red: A Crayon’s Story – Validating & destigmatizing
- Introducing Teddy – written by a queer author raised by a trans parent, best for cis accomplices on how to be a good friend.
- Max And The Talent Show – Max, a trans boy, supports his gender-creative cis friend who loves drag.
- Doodleville – Normalizing trans characters.
- Lumber Janes – Jo, a math & logic whiz of Navajo/Diné decent, is trans, and her identity is disclosed around volume 4.
#OwnVoices trans, non-binary & gender creative kidlit makers
- Alex Gino (they/them)
- Breena Nuñez (she/her or they/them)
- Jazz Jennings (she/her)
- Joy Ellison (they/them)
- Kai Cheng Thom (she/her)
- Koja Adeyoha (she/her)
- Kyle Lukoff (he/him)
- Lilah Sturges (she/her)
- Matthew SG (he/him) of Reflection Press, an #OwnVoices LGBTQiA2S+ indie press, and their books are fantastic. I’ve included a few in the lists and you can also check out our maker spotlight with them here.
- Nabi Ali (he/him)
- Noah Grigni (they/them)
- Phoenix Finch (she/her)
- Trinity Neal (she/her)
- Lauren Simkin Berke (avoid pronouns, but accepts they/them in a pinch)
You might also like: Books about LGBTQiA2S+ History for kids
Which books didn’t make it?
There are a few books I did not include on our full list of positive representation & resilience for trans kids – but which you might see on other websites.
Here’s a quick rundown of examples, and why they didn’t make the cut:
Stigmatizing trans people & folks with mental health conditions: For older kids, you’re going to see recommendations for a graphic novel called Witch Boy floating around – I have deep reservations about this story and how it feeds stereotypes about dysphoria and stigmatizing people with mental health conditions as violent. I’m gonna review it and talk over my hesitations with a trans kid this month, and see how they feel about it.
Hard to get / inaccessible for most:
For our youngest readers: check out We are Little Feminist Families, which isn’t on bookshop but you can order it there. (transparency! I helped screen & edit the photos.)
- Flamingo Rampant, an #OwnVoices LGBT2Q+ indie press, doesn’t feature their books on bookshop or amazon, which makes including them book lists a headache. So here are the books I wish I could have added to this list: 47,000 Beads & Rachel’s Christmas Boat, Love Is In The Hair
Cis authors who insist on deadnaming (even when they work with trans illustrators):
Were I Not A Girl about Dr. James Barry. #OwnVoices illustrator, but the author’s text contains deadnaming and mis-gendering. There’s an earlier book about Dr. Barry floating around ’The Cottonwool Doctor’ that also insists on deadnaming & mis-gendering him in his childhood. Dr. Barry’s assigned sex at birth wasn’t discovered until his death. He went by he/his pronouns and used ‘James’ as an adult and in his career. Since we can’t know if he would be okay with folks using his deadname or assigned pronouns, he did not give consent to be portrayed like this. Hard pass. Not to mention – both are bland reads and never gets into the best parts about Barry and his abrasive personality (or misogyny, depending on how you look at it), which is a shame. Dude revolutionized childbirth for at-risk deliveries, and tore Florence Nightingale a new one! And all these books talk about is his transition, without his consent.
- The Fighting Infantryman, illustrated Nabi Ali, a South Asian #OwnVoices trans illustrator (he/him), but written by Rob Sanders, who tends to be very white-, cis- and dude-centered in his take on LGBTQ history.
Whitewashing: Why is Julian is a mermaid not on this list? ‘Cause trans people aren’t mythical creatures, and Love’s decision to make another whitewashed (and bland) sequel reinforces my hesitations about white authors profiting off brown-faced figments of their imagination. She completely disregarded criticism from Afro-Caribbean trans folks before barreling ahead with the franchise as Julian attends proceeds to move through the world like a white kid. These books were designed to make white people feel inclusive with a safe model minority character, and that is why they are so popular. This is a problem.
- Plagarism: The whitewashed & appropriated book Who Are You? written by cis makers ripped off both concept and diagrams from the well-known #OwnVoices workbooks and subsequent publication, The Gender Wheel. Worth noting that this book is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, which is well known for platforming white, cis, abled folks (especially Autism Warrior Parents) as they talk about targeted people, without them. While they occasionally publish a decent nonfiction book, most of their autism & neurodiversity books are fucking awful.
WRITE THESE BOOKS ’cause they don’t exist yet: We need kids books celebrating trans activist Pauline Park, trans goddess Guanyin & fluid Loki, and a Ballad of Mulan (I think my fave is by Song Nan Zhang. Also please boycott the most recent disney movie please & thanks) that gives kids space to consider Mulan not as a dutiful daughter, but a trans man grabbing an opportunity to be himself.
Folks who rally readers for anti-trans hate and exclusion: Even though there aren’t any trans characters in Harry Potter books – if you must read the books but don’t want to profit this terrible human (who does target and spread falsehoods about trans women in her adult books), borrow a used copy. Honestly though, we read through HP1 with Q this summer and it really doesn’t hold up in 2020. It’s not just awful – body-shaming, sexist, racist, misogynist, full of transmisia and other garbage – it’s also just terribly written. Q got halfway through book two before the disgust overwhelmed his curiosity about the chamber of secrets.
You might also like: Beyond the Binary: Why We Need Gender Creative Characters
Stay Curious, Stand Brave, and Protect Trans Kids
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But if your resources are limited – first support the Trans Women of Color Collective [TWOCC], a youth-, trans-, BIWOC-led organization elevating the voices and leadership oportunities for trans women of color.
“There is a critical need for trans youth of color led initiatives that cultivate affirming spaces for our communities to engage in healing and restorative justice. We lean in with an intentional response to the trauma our community has endured by leading with the voices and leadership of our youth and young people.” – TWOCC