After coming across the below video months ago, I became quite intrigued in the unfortunate heteronormativity of children’s literature. After doing some research, I have stumbled across a few books, targeted towards children, with transgender or homosexual themes throughout the book, giving me a bit more hope for diversity in children’s literature. The video provides an example of one such book. “Stacey’s Not a Girl”, is written by Colt Keo-Meier, who happens to be a transgender man. The main plot of the book entails those around Stacey telling them that they are a girl, but Stacey not feeling as though they fit this image. The book delves into the possibility that there are more than two genders, and it is okay to not know what gender identity you, individually, identify with. While going through Stacey’s journey and their realization that they don’t identify as being a girl like society has told them, it provides education for families in these situations, as well as gives children a character that they can personally identify with.
The importance of this growing trend is innumerable for it exposes cisgender children to diversity that they may encounter in their schools, as well as provides transgender/questioning children an assurance that they are not alone in their journey. While there has been an increase in publications of children’s books that include transgender characters, the occurrence of these books is not where it should be. Books that include diverse characters can only help children better understand themselves and their peers. By having a limited selection of transgender books, society is sending the message that these children are not as important that those that identify with the gender-binary.
The video closely relates to the Keyword “Identity” by Karen Coats. In her essay, she acknowledges the variety of ways in which an identity is constructed, often socially. She brings up theories, such as John Locke’s tabula rasa, and “the looking glass self”, to possibly describe how one’s identity emerges in such a ever-changing, fluid society. Coats recognizes the prevalent theme in children’s literature of having the protagonist embrace their individuality rather than conform, but then acknowledges the fact that there is almost always an underlying suggestion that identity management comes from group ideals. She further recognizes the fact that children do use literature as a resource of identification, and thus draws the connection that there need to be a diverse set of books representing children of all populations, races, and genders, so that the child may not feel oppressed and be forced to adopt alienated opinions. The importance of gender diversity in children’s literature will only grow with the ever-changing society that we live in today.