Fuse #8

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Transgendered children's books

Specifically of the cross-dressing picture book variety.
There's a hot hot debate going on right now on the Child_Lit listserve about this kind of stuff. It was heated in no small way by one of the more infamous posters (and by "infamous" I mean "annoying") who went so far as to equate cross-dressers with NAMBLA. You can imagine how THAT went down.

Michael Joseph, the moderator, had this to say. I thought it particularly interesting.

Just a brief sidebar--no response is expected--but of relevance to this discussion I think and where the discussion is taking place. A year ago I attended a conference for children's writers, editors, illustrators and aspirants to those professions, & I led an hourlong discussion at a table consisting of ten individuals representing the various strata in the children's literature community, being 1 very famous children's author, 1 less famous but widely published author, 1 editor at a major house, 1 successful and otherwise articulate agent, and several would-be authors. In view of the fact that we'd all just heard a panel discussion about "risk" in children's literature, but, strikingly, no mention was made of the professional or economic risk of writing or publishing the voices and lives of "at risk" populations--in which I included, and emphasized transgendered and queer children--I thought I'd open discussion by asking what everyone felt about it, you know, why isn't there and maybe shouldn't there be more books about and for poor kids, African Americans, queer/transgendered kids?

The responses were, the very famous writer said he wrote for the skin "inside," the agent, clearly exasperated, said, "well, there's Tango?" one of the aspirants complained that "political correctness" had led one editor to insist she put a "chinese person and a hispanic" into her book, and another of the aspirants somewhat hysterically attacked me for leading discussion away from what they were there to discuss; none of the other discussants had a word to say.


At 11:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is genuinely sad when writers--members of society who contribute to our social awareness--don't understand one source of human suffering that eats away at individuals off every race, in every society, of every culture around the globe; what makes this situation truly sad is that so many of these individuals are children, ranging in age from 3 to 18.

I am a published writer of books for children and adolescents. Royalties come not from simply expressing what one wants to claim is true; royalties also come from genuine service to society as it is performed by writers.

Human suffering is something we all understand to one degree or another. Children who are transgendered suffer more than most. Their condition is brought on by prenatal hormones in the mother's womb. They are not choosing to feel and to be as they are; rather, they are struggling simply to stay alive, hoping that somehow, their female brain will come to terms with their male bodies (or vice versa).

There is no greater gift to an individual, or to a community, or indeed to a society, than that of compassion and empathy. Insight simply and eloquently communicated, with beautiful illustrations, is a goal each of us should aspire to create.

Through commitment over time to what is good and uplifting, we may truly earn the royalties we receive, and have the right to be proud of the content and characters we have so lucidly expressed.

We will know we have earned the return that comes to us, and we can be proud that we supported--and, yes, loved--the hundreds of thousands of children in the USA and abroad who are seeking to understand themselves, and where they may find a place in the world in which they may be at peace, and flourish.


One such child--now an adult.


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