Picture book offers clearer portrait of gender identity
CHICAGO -- What I like best about the new children's picture book "It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity" is that there's no sad child who magically overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to have a happy ending.
As a teacher for grades K-4, I read a lot of picture books with important messages about respect, understanding the people around us and just being nice to others. Usually when a book wants to teach kids about interpersonal distinctions, it doubles down on differences before illustrating how similar all humans are.
In contrast, "It Feels Good to Be Yourself" is light. Matter-of-fact. Positive. And as ultra-diverse as the city of Los Angeles, where author Theresa Thorn lives with her husband and three children, one of whom is a transgender girl. Thorn is also co-host of the "One Bad Mother" podcast and co-author of the parenting book "You're Doing a Great Job! 100 Ways You're Winning at Parenting."
"It Feels Good to be Yourself," which is beautifully drawn by Atlanta-based illustrator and comic artist Noah Grigni, introduces us to Ruthie, an adorable brown-skinned, brown-eyed transgender girl. "That means when she was born, everyone thought she was a boy. Until she grew a little older -- old enough to tell everyone that she's actually a girl," Thorn writes.
From there we meet Ruthie's friends, who are cisgender ("everyone thought he was a boy, and as he grew older, it turned out everyone was right -- he is a boy"), nonbinary (which "can describe a kid who doesn't feel exactly like a boy or a girl") or have other ways to say who they are.
We learn that "whether you feel like a boy, a girl, both, or neither, or if you describe yourself another way, that is your gender identity. Your gender identity might match what people thought you were when you were born. Or, it might not."
Now, is this really the sort of thing that young children need to be exposed to?
I work in a public-school district that has multiple students in early grades who are transitioning, or already have, to affirm their true gender identity.
Plus kids see and hear about various gender expressions ("which clothes you wear, how you style your hair, how you walk and talk") in popular music, on TV shows and even in the books their teachers read to them in school.