In 2017 we’ve seen progress of acceptance and representation of gay and lesbian individuals. When it comes to accepting and representing transgender individuals, however, there’s a lot more progress to be made.
One author is seeking to bridge the gap between the LGBT community and the public through representation, using the transgender protagonist in the children’s book, George.
Image Via Amazon
Gino’s book follows a transgender child who tries to find a way to help others understand her true identity as a female and shed the perception of gender that is ingrained in her community. Gino effectively dives into the discussion of gender, expectations, and reality with this moving tale. While the book is targeted towards an audience of ages eight to twelve, every reader can take something away from the story.
Unsurprisingly in the modern age when even classic novels are banned by schools, Gino’s book about a transgender character was kept off the list of required texts in Wichita schools at the beginning of the 2017 school year.
While the decision was left up to the librarians at each school in regards to whether or not George would be included on shelves, (only 4 out of 57 elementary and middle schools carry the book), the lack of encouragement from school distracts can have very real effects for readers who can benefit from the exposure.
Gino, who identifies as genderqueer and prefers to be addressed as “they” in place of typical he/her gender pronouns, believes the representation of transgender youth is beneficial to readers of all demographics.
Image Via World Magazine
Some adults get all sorts of nervous when they think about how to talk about trans and queer issues with children. But the thing is, kids don’t have a problem until they learn to. The question of whether stories like George are age-appropriate are ridiculous, because there is no age before which it is appropriate to be compassionate.
Gail Becker, supervisor of library media for the Wichita school district, defended her decision to leave George off the master list titles.
She told The Wichita Eagle that the mature language in the book led to her decision.
“When I read this book, I kept reminding myself to look at it through the eyes of an eight-year-old, because that’s the intended audience,” Becker said. “I made the decision that … the maturity level of third grade was not appropriate for that book.”
While the book does include some mature language, including mention of sex reassignment surgery, by disregarding the book entirely it effectively closes the conversation about transgender youth. Yes, mature language can, at times, be uncomfortable. However, I would think that the inability to understand and empathize with others simply because of their gender and/or sexuality would be much more uncomfortable.
Image Via Daily Hampshire Gazette/Jeffrey Roberts
Ignoring differences related to gender and sexuality doesn’t help encourage understanding and recognition. Just as the discussion of sex, race, religion, and so on needs to be discussed in order to create an informed and understanding community, so does the discussion of gender and sexuality.
As Gino emphasizes, “access to validating stories saves lives. If younger folks learn to talk about queer and trans people in the world, the more we can hope to grow into a society in which queer and trans people are not only accepted, but celebrated.”
While school districts will continue to resist books like George in the upcoming years, it’s up to the public to encourage and participate in the discussion of gender and sexuality. Resistance and censorship won’t create understanding and change, it will only lead to ignorance.
“It’s not just trans kids who need trans stories,” Gino continues, “we all need to see each other as people if we have any hope of getting through the next century.”
Featured Image Is Book Cover Courtesy of CSDOLA