Jennifer Carr has made an important contribution to children’s literature in her 2010 offering “Be Who You Are” (Author House, Bloomington, IN). In this 32 page, colorfully illustrated (by Ben Rumback) book, Carr shows the challenges of a gender variant child “Nick” as he transforms into “Hope”.
Hope’s parents are unwavering in their support and help her as she negotiates run-in’s with a teacher and disappointment with school. Other issues raised are connecting with a therapist, finding community with other families with gender variant children, dealing with a younger brother’s coming to terms with her, correcting pronouns and self acceptance. Certain milestones such as wearing a dress out to a park and picking a new name are lovingly celebrated.
This book, which can be read to or with a transgender child, performs an invaluable function – it legitimizes and normalizes the child’s experience. In addition it gives clues and direction to the young child on how to cope with difficult situations, such as:
“…whenever she felt sad or worried she talked with her parents”
“…when someone made a mistake and called her by the wrong name, she politely said ‘Please call me Hope. It means a lot to me’ ”.
In short it is a book written for the transgender child not just about a child who is transgender. Kudos to Carr (who runs an excellent blog here) and was inspired by her own child for writing this book.
(For more information on books for Transgender children see the bibliography complied by Nancy Silverrod of the San Francisco Public Library here )
HarperCollins Publishers, 2006, ISBN-10: 0061120561, ISBN-13: 978-0061120565)
A quick summary:
The book is the true account of a Canadian boy born in 1967 who lost his penis due to a terribly botched circumcision. The parents, under the advice of controversial Johns Hopkins Gender expert John Money (who believed that gender was learned rather than innate) decided to raise the boy as a girl. Brenda, (who was known in Money’s published accounts as “Joan”) grew up angry, depressed, confused and extremely uncomfortable as a girl. She did not know her true gender until her parents revealed it to her at 14 when her life was spiraling out of control. She then transitioned back to male (David) as a teenager, married and although much more comfortable as a man later committed suicide.
Money, for 30 years reported the case as a success despite Brenda’s clear uncomfortable and troubled adaption to the female gender and severe problems with school and friends. This in turn skewed the belief in academic circles about the nature vs. nurture debate. Money was supposedly presenting hard evidence that gender could be learned from one’s environment and ignoring the results of his “experiment”. Hundreds of similar cases, of boys born with small or no penises, or intersexed conditions had their gender “decided” based on Money’s research.
Importance for those interested in transgender issues:
I think the importance of this book for those interested in transgendered conditions is that it allows the reader to really get a feel for the intensely uncomfortable feeling of living in the wrong gender. People with little knowledge of gender issues can relate and identify with the boy who was forced to be raised as a girl. The reader can feel the pain and outrage inherent in the situation. As such, this might be an important book for transgendered individuals to recommend to friends and family when they are “coming out” as transgendered. It many be harder for family to understand “I feel like I’m in the wrong body” or “I think I should have been a woman” than the story presented in this book that says – here’s a child raised in the wrong gender– see how it doesn’t work? It just seems easier for many people to grasp.
In addition it’s very well written and highlights other important issues as well, such as the issue of Money, a known and respected professional having gotten away with publishing false reports and engaging in reprehensible research methods with children. (Brenda at one point threatened to commit suicide if she were made to go back for more “follow-ups” with Money).
Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.