The message I believe in, the one I wrote for my first children’s book, is that we should all just be ourselves. Simple enough, right? If we can express who we are genuinely, then it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it. We don’t have to be carbon copies after all. By learning about another’s experiences, as different as they are from our own, we grow in our understanding and respect for the people with whom we share this planet, this experience.
So while lost in the minutia of blogging, website updates, emails and homeschooling today, I stumbled across a fresh blog from Sarah Hoffman about her son’s reaction to my book. He asks his mom to write down what he says verbatim so I’ll share his words with you…
“This book was pretty great in some ways and okay in some ways. I recommend it for people who really do feel like they’re one gender on the outside and a different one on the inside. But for other people, I really do not recommend it.”
Picture me scratching my head. Maybe my ego was bruised because Sarah Hoffman wrote what I thought was a supportive review of my book on her blog on January 16, 2011 (she even graciously included a book giveaway) and then on January 18, 2011 shared with her readers what read to me like a different opinion. She’s a kind person, wonderful mom, and a great writer so I obviously give her the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless, I shared this comment…
“Interesting. Just as Sam might feel like the book doesn’t fit the way he feels inside, my daughter doesn’t identify with The Princess Boy at all. Everyone needs their own story told. I guess that’s the beauty of this world- that there doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all answer to anything. If we can be true to ourselves and feel good about our expression, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it, especially when it doesn’t match their own.”
I expected that when any child (or adult), especially one that is not transgender, reads Hope’s story they learn about what Hope went through, like walking a mile in her shoes. Be Who You Are was not designed to educate about the gender spectrum explaining all the different ways children can feel. Nor was it created to promote or enforce a gender binary. My book was written to open hearts and minds toward one child’s experience that, despite being different from the experiences of the reader, is still valid and worthy of respect. Along the same lines, the fact that my child doesn’t identify with My Princess Boy doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend the book to people. My Princess Boy, and books like it, describe a different perspective, but still share a meaningful message for us and others.
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled. I’m lucky that the play group (of gender diverse children) that I coordinate every month is very diverse indeed. We’re blessed with a supportive network of families and children where our differences unite us instead of divide us. Some families have gender fluid children. Some families have gender non-conforming children who communicate openly about being born as one gender, but identifying as the other. Others have children who, like mine, socially transitioned to living as their expressed gender because that is right for them. It doesn’t matter what your expression looks like to the group. We support one another and respect where we are at unconditionally. Due to that mindset I think less about how we do things differently and more about how great it is that the kids are doing well in school and are happy and healthy.
After all, isn’t that what we all really care about? Not what life looks like on the outside, but that it is real on the inside.