Books with Trans Characters to Add to Your Family Bookshelf

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A few weeks into lockdown here in the UK, our 10 year old child came to us and told us that he felt like he was a boy, not a girl, like we had all assumed for so long. This came completely out of the blue, there had been no clues whatsoever. We have always been a liberal, pro LGBTQ family, so after a moment of “wow, this is huge and unexpected”, as a family we quickly came together in support of my son. We also have a 5 year old daughter who we had to explain this to. I was so annoyed at myself when I realised that in our childrens books we had Gay and Lesbian characters, but no Transgender characters. So we very quickly went on a bit of a book shopping spree to get some more inclusive books in our collection, as a way of introducing transgender characters to our youngest child and then later to use those stories as a tool to explain that she has a transgender brother. These are the stories that helped us.

Red a Crayons Story by Michael Hall

Red crayon just doesn’t seem to fit with his red label, he can never get the colour right. All his friends and family try to help him be red, but nothing works. It’s not until a new friend sees that he’s really blue just with a red label, that he finally gets to be the crayon he’s always been.

This is such a sweet story and a simple way to introduce the concept of people not always fitting with what we might assume they are.

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton & Illustrated by Dougal MacPherson

A little boy called Errol has a teddy with a bow-tie called Thomas and they do everything together, but one day he starts to notice that Thomas the Teddy seems sad and not even a trip to the park is cheering him up. When Errol tells Thomas the Teddy that they’ll always be friends no matter what, Thomas admits that really he feels like he should be a girl teddy called Tilly. Tilly is so much happier now and the story ends with Errol and Tilly doing everything together just like before, but this time, Tilly has a big smile on her face and a bow in her hair.

We loved this story and how Tillys friends support her without question, at the end we see that she’s still the same teddy, playing all the same games with her friend, but now she’s so much happier. This is a lovely way to talk about not only someone changing their gender expression but also how easily the children accepted and supported their friend.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff & Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

The story starts with the simple explanation of how, when he was younger everyone thought Aidan was a girl, but then he was very brave and told his family that he was actually a boy, and how his family loved and accepted him. It tells us about how he met other families with transgender children, and how he explored different way of being a boy, he tried different names until one stuck, his bedroom was redecorated a way that made him feel that he belonged and he got new clothes. Then we find out that Aidan is going to be a big brother! We follow Aidans journey to becoming a big brother, there’s lots of decisions that Aidan helps with and we see how having a transgender child has changed the way this family talk about and prepare for having a new baby. Aidan feels worried about getting everything right, but his mummy reminds him that no one has to be perfect and that love is all that really matters.

This story is obviously centred around a transgender child and covers the story of his transition and how the family welcomes a new child without the focus being on the baby’s gender. Its a wonderful story and a subtle way of introducing a transgender character to your children. This is the book we read with our 5 year old daughter right before we told her about her brother also being transgender, “just like Aidan” she said and the rest of the day was spent making up songs about having the best big brother ever.

It Feels Good To Be Yourself – A book about Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn & Illustrated by Noah Gringni

In this story we meet Ruthie, a transgender girl, and her family and friends. The story very simply explains that Girl, is Ruthies gender identity. We meet her brother Xavier and it is explained that he is a cis gender boy and what that means. We also meet Alex and JJ who are both non-binary but in different ways. It is a beautiful story about being yourself in the world and that whatever your or your friends gender identity is, that it feels good to be yourself. At the end of the book there is a list of helpful terms to know, a quick explanation of Pronouns and how important they are, and a list of helpful resources.

This beautifully illustrated book is a lot more obvious with what its trying to do than the simpler stories about crayon and teddy. It’s a simple way to introduce the terms Transgender, Cisgender, Non-Binary and gender identity in an easy to understand way. It explains the importance of supporting and accepting each other and being true to ourselves. This was the last book that we read to our daughter, the other stories had introduced the concept of people having different genders to what was assumed, about supporting our friends and how families come together to accept transgender children, so this last story was a great way to clarify it all and discuss how the characters in the stories we had already read were transgender.

These are just the stories that we used in our home when introducing our daughter to transgender characters, which made it so much easier to explain that she had a transgender brother. The stories were all beautiful, we started out with the more subtle stories about the Teddy and the Crayon, Then Aidan and finally Ruthie. The books were in our home being read now and then for about 2 weeks before we finally told her about her brother, it was so much easier than we ever imagined, and our Son was so happy that his little sister was able to accept, love and support him straight away.

Although we needed these books because we have a transgender child and a younger sibling to explain that to, I wish we’d had them before as they make a wonderful addition to any childrens book collection.

The book that I read to further my understanding of Gender and would absolutely recommend for anyone from teenage onwards is Gender – a Graphic Guide by Meg-John Barker & Jules Scheele. This book explores our shifting understanding of gender, discussing gender roles, stereotypes, the politics around gender expression, current debates and tensions and looks at how gender intersects with various other experiences. After reading this wonderfully illustrated book any misconceptions I held about gender were gone,it taught me so much about masculinity, femininity and transgender issues. Not to sound too dramatic but I think this book should be required reading for everyone, it really was a lifeline in those very early days when I was feeling confused and worried, I can’t imagine how much better the world might be for everyone if we all had the understanding of Gender that this book so simply gives us.

(You can hear more for Jean in the episode of the podcast we did with her in 2018. (Part 1 and Part 2.)

Update November 2020 – here is an amazing video from @thejefferymarsh about trans acceptance and how trans and nonbinary people want to be treated.

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