Category Archives: trans experience

Pride 1 2 3

Written by: Michael Joosten

Illustrated by: Wednesday Holmes 

For ages: Infants and up (board book)

Language: English

Topics Covered: LGBTQ, Pride, Acceptance, Math, Counting Books, Board Books, Activism. 

Summary: 

This is a very sweet counting book that focuses on a Pride Parade.  The illustrations are super diverse, and celebrate the intersections of identity that one can find at these events.  Moving from one to ten, the reader sees all sorts of bright illustrations of dj’s performing, motorcycles riding in the parade, affirming signs, and families picnicking.

I really liked that the Pride flag used was the Philly Pride flag, the one with the black and brown stripes added.  This acknowledges specifically the Black and Brown members of the LGBTQ community, and that they are often marginalized and oppressed more that white LGBTQ individuals.  This is a board book, but it ensures from the beginning that readers will learn about the diversity of people, and how everyone should be celebrated for being exactly themselves.

We were given access to this book on Edelweiss by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

MichaelJoosten-Photo-2Michael Joosten is a children’s book writer and editor living in New York with his nugget-like Chihuahua, Olive.

 

 

 

 

 

F18130C2-FDA2-4635-90A8-741E4ABBCFEAWednesday Holmes is a London based artist, designer and disruptor. They create artwork inspired by and for queer people, aiming to use their art to make a difference and change minds. Wednesday has worked with a variety of clients including Chime for Change by Gucci, The Sad Ghost Club, BBC BodyPositive, The Positive Page, and the Albert Kennedy Trust. In 2019, the artist was also named by Out magazine as one of the Most Exciting Queers to Follow on Instagram. See more of Wednesday’s work here!

You Be You! The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family

Written by: Johnathan Branfman

Illustrated by: Julie Benbassat

For ages: 7-11

Language: English

Topics Covered: Gender, Sexuality, Trans Experience, Family, Discrimination (Transphobia, Homophobia, Sexism) Privilege, Intersectionality, Allyship, Attraction & Romance, Friendship

Summary: 

This little book hopped off the shelf and into Lee’s hands like it was meant to be! In just 73 short, beautifully illustrated pages, author Johnathan Branfman and illustrator Julie Benbassat have created the guide that I wish I had had when I was young. In very clear and sensitive language, Bronfman outlines the basics of X and Y chromosomes, but then goes a step beyond to talk about people with any variety of chromosomes, matter-of-factly stating “not everyone is born with a body that fits these expectations of male and female…people who aren’t male or female are called intersex” (16-17). Later chapters (which are short and to the point, averaging out at 10 pages or less) also make space for cis and trans gender identities, while also pointing out “some people don’t identify as either boys or girls. Many people who feel this way identify as gender non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or gender fluid” (24)

You Be You effortlessly and explicitly includes many intersectional identities that rarely find a place in an introductory book for this age group, (not just featuring disabled people in illustrations but calling out ableism in the text) but the wording never comes across as heavy handed, a large part of that due to Bronfman’s experience as a summer camp counselor. The text is engaging and does not have the “parental lecture” quality that some early-childhood books on “tough subjects” can have. You Be You shows the reader, whether they are a parent or child, that there is no reason to be afraid of these subjects! Honesty, compassion and affirmation are the backbone of these chapters, especially the fantastic section that covers privilege and intersectionality.

And it’s not just the words that blew me away-the illustrations feature depictions of tricky subjects such as privilege and allyship in a way that I have not seen before in books for children or adults! Using the colors to represent discrimination (red) and allyship/compassion (blue) the emotions surrounding each experience are clear and comprehensible for readers of any age.

I just can’t say enough about this book-it should be available to everyone and anyone. The inclusion and true diversity represented inside the pages make this a must-read for anyone trying to learn more about identity and how to talk about challenging concepts like intersectionality and privilege with compassionate but realistic language. We hope you find it as revelatory as we did, and spread it in your circles!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Jonathan Branfman, Ph.D. is a Gender Studies researcher and children’s book author. His work focuses on LGBTQIA diversity and social justice. His book, You Be You!: The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family, is an illustrated children’s book for ages 7-11 that makes gender identity, sexual orientation, and family diversity easy to explain to children. Throughout the book, kids learn that there are many kinds of people in the world and that diversity is something to be celebrated. It covers gender, romantic orientation, discrimination, intersectionality, privilege, and how to stand up for what’s right. The book was illustrated by Julie Benbassat.

Jonathan can be contacted via his website at https://jonathanbranfman.com

Julie Benbassat is an illustrator and recent RISD graduate. You can find her in Brooklyn, NY eating soft tofu stew. Her work delights in the eccentricities of the natural world, indulges in the fantastical, and highlights the bridge between the cute and the horrific. In spare moments, she relishes reading sassy nonfiction, hiking wooded expanses, and watching bad (but good) horror movies.

When Aidan Became a Brother

Written by: Kyle Lukoff

Illustrated by: Kaylani Juanita

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Gender Identity, Family, LGBTQ Youth, Trans Experience, Gender Stereotypes, Growing Up, Pregnancy, Siblings, Social-Emotional Learning, Empathy.

Summary: Since it’s Corrie’s birthday, she wanted to post a book that she’s currently loving and can’t stop talking about.  This book is SO cute, we’re a bit obsessed with it.  It tackles several issues all at once, and each is incredibly well-done and easy for young readers to understand.  This is a book that belongs in every classroom as soon as possible, and we are so grateful to the author and incredibly talented illustrator for bringing this story to life.

Everyone thought that Aidan was a girl when he was born, and when he was young it was frustrating to be so misunderstood.  Eventually, he figured out a way to express himself and his parents helped make the adjustments he wanted so he could feel more comfortable in what he wore and what his bedroom looked like.  Now that Aidan’s mother is pregnant again, Aidan wants to make sure he’s the best big brother possible and this includes making sure that the new baby isn’t misunderstood like he was.  The book goes through a lot of the preparations a family makes when getting ready for a new addition, with special care taken not to gender the new baby or put any stereotypes in place in terms of a name or room color.  A particularly adorable illustration shows Aidan researching names in a baby name book, but he has changed the title from “boys and girls” to “babies and babies”, specifically wanting a neutral name.

The care that Aidan takes shows an immense amount of empathy for his new sibling, wanting them to feel wholly loved and cared for without any of the pressures that gender stereotyping places on a new life.  In the back of the story is an author’s note about Kyle Lukoff’s own journey to being his authentic self, and it adds another level of tenderness to the story itself.

This book was sent to us by the Lee & Low for review, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

head+shot+copyKyle Lukoff writes books for kids and other people, here is a bit more about him from Kyle’s website! “Right now you can read A STORYTELLING OF RAVENS and WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER. Soon you’ll be able to read the MAX AND FRIENDS series, and also EXPLOSION AT THE POEM FACTORY.

I’m also a school librarian. When I’m not helping my students finds books I review professionally, assist in sensitivity readings and consultations, and present on the importance of children’s and youth literature all across the country.

I was born outside of Chicago, and moved to Washington State when I was five. I moved to New York City for college in 2002 and never left, except for an extremely brief attempt at law school. I got hired at Barnes and Noble when I was sixteen, and have been working at the intersection of books and people for over half my life. I write about transgender kids, collective nouns, poetry, and queer lives.”

juanitaKaylani Juanita is an illustrator based in Fairfield, CA who illustrates inclusive picture books, editorial art, and afros. Some of her clients include Chronicle Books, Cicada Magazine, and DEFY. Her work has been recognized by Society of Illustrators, The Huffington Post, as well as BBC. California grown and raised, she’s studied at Cal Arts and CCA for a BFA in Illustration. Her mission as an artist is to support the stories of the under represented and create new ways for people to imagine themselves. You can find her lurking in public secretly drawing strangers or writing nonsensical stories about who knows what.

We Are Everywhere

Created & Compiled by: Matthew Riemer & Leighton Brown

For ages: all ages

Language: English

Topics Covered: LGBTQ History, Activism, Global Community, Own Voices.

Summary: So this might seem like a funky book to review since we primarily do children’s books, but it’s really not.  Corrie in particular had a favorite book when she was little, it was a giant photo book of the best Life Magazine photos of the 20th century! Being able to flip through that giant heavy book and learn all sorts of facts, look at picture and camera technology develop through the years, and learn about lots of events that were never taught in school was (and still is) very important to her.

This book is incredible!  We saw it once in a shop when we were traveling and it was too heavy to take home, so we didn’t end up buying it.  The book itself is a huge and beautiful coffee table book and contains our queer history in between the covers.  Being able to look back on historical LGBTQ figures & activists is so special.  Many names and lives have been forgotten, particularly with the loss of a generation during the AIDS epidemic. Looking back on the work that activists who came before us, and seeing them in action is nothing short of inspiring.

Such time and care was put into developing this volume of photos, we are looking at our past.  The LGBTQ community is indebted to those who struggled before us, and without their sacrifices we would not have as many protections as we do today.  Our community still struggles today, and Black trans women of color are being murdered at sickening rates.  This book reminds us that the fight is not over, in one of the most beautiful and comprehensive ways we personally have ever seen.  This book will be parking itself right on our coffee table and not leaving!

This book was generously given to us by Ten Speed Press in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are our own!

About the Creators:

Best-known as the creators and curators of Instagram’s @lgbt_history, Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown blend striking imagery and meticulously researched narratives to uncover details too often overlooked. With a uniquely engaging ability to grapple with queer history so that individuals and organizations can understand the present and shape the future, Matthew and Leighton’s approach to history teaches, challenges, and inspires.

Described as “absolutely essential” by Out magazine, @lgbt_history has drawn praise for for “giving special attention to the often overlooked stories of transgender and bisexual members of the community . . . [as well as] to people of color and people with disabilities, who have been crucial to the advancement of queer liberation but often go ignored.”

Matthew and Leighton live in Washington, D.C., where Leighton is an attorney and Matthew, a former attorney, is a writer and lecturer. They enjoy fighting fascists, spending time with their dog, and disrupting fundamentalists’ worldviews. We Are Everywhere is the couple’s first book. 

The Love-Alphabet Rockers

Featured Artists and Guest Artists:

Alphabet Rockers - HighRes Photo by NinoFernandez
Photo by Nino Fernandez

Over 60 guest artists join the Alphabet Rockers co-founders, Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd. Voices from our next generation — Lillian Ellis, Maya Fleming, Kali de Jesus and Tommy “T3PO” Shepherd III, as well as 123 Andrés, Angel & Koja Adeyoha, Aris Wong, Ashanti Branch, Billy Dean Thomas, Celestina Pearl and Esperanza Carter-Pearl, Genevieve Goings, H. Daniel Mujahid, Harlow Carpenter, Honey Mahogany, Jennifer Johns, Juan “Wonway Posibul” Amador, Kanyon “CoyoteWoman” Sayers-Roods, KARLON, Kiran Nagraj, Lucy Kalantari, M. Zamora, MADLines, Mahawam, Malachi Garza, mariposa & AmihanCh’íníbaa’, Michelle “CHELLE” Jacques, Mike McCann, Nizhoni & Pálxcqíwn Ellenwood, Okee Dokee Brothers, Rei Matsuno, Rhonda Crane, RyanNicole, Samara Atkins, SaulPaul, Shaina Evoniuk, The Singing Bois, Sólás B. Lalgee, Yaw, Yiann, Zumbi Zoom.

For ages: Humans of all ages can groove to these beats!
redesigned-milikan-ohlonemap
Image via Kanyon Konsulting LLC

Language: Primarily English and Spanish, but features many other languages in songs such as This is Ohlone Land which acknowledges the variety of indigenous groups and languages of Oakland, CA, where the album was recorded.

Topics Covered: LGBTQ, Non-Binary Identity, Transgender Activism, Radical Joy, Self-Love, Cultural Consciousness and Pride, Self-Expression, Respect for All, Survival, Black Gxrl Magic, Ancestral Power and Healing, Strength, and Truth.

 

Summary:

It is impossible to sit silent and still when listening

to the Alphabet Rocker’s album The Love.

The album begins with a respectful acknowledgement of the land on which it was recorded, setting the stage for the thoughtful and transformational nature of the album.  Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd cover a wide range of topics artfully and powerfully.  In other hands and different voices the album could be heavy-handed and preachy, but by allowing the guest artists featured on the album to speak their truth, McGaw and Shepherd spread the love and recognition across the board.

ruth azul
Art by Ruth Azul

The Love is joyful, realistic but also hopeful, which can be an extremely challenging balance to strike-and they do it expertly.  The music and lyrics recognize the struggle and work of past generations and queer people of color from the far reaches of history like Hatshepsut to Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, founders of STAR, the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries as well as today’s activists like two-spirit Representative Sharice Davids of Kansas.

sharice
(R-KS) Sharice Davids

The album’s lyrics could easily parrot the “everything is sunshine and rainbows!” or “life is suffering” binary found in many narratives.  Instead, the artists both acknowledge the injustice heaped upon marginalized groups and create a sense of hope that emanates from songs like “Black Gxrl Magic.”  This faith in the promise of the future is fired up by “the next generation” of voices, empowered young people who speak their mind clearly and energetically.

We loved the small photos with pronouns of all the other artists featured on the album!  It allowed us to get to know each artist as an individual, and provided a visual reference for the wide range of personalities, identities and cultures represented in the fantastic music. The explicit celebration of the many intersections of queerness and cultural identity is refreshing and radical, as so many queer narratives are whitewashed and simplified to appeal to a larger audience. The Alphabet Rockers recognize the truth of the windows and mirrors approach that we reference here at the Tiny Activist; that honoring the distinct identities of people who are not like you creates more space for everyone.

gender-wheel-poster-web
The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez

One feature of the album that we particularly enjoyed were the interludes, especially They/Them, where each speaker introduces themselves with their pronouns.  It was powerful recognizing that children are able to grasp and see the importance this practice, especially when so many adults can’t be bothered to do the same. It gives us great hope that the next generation will be more open and accepting from a young age.The interludes create a space for dialogue, and they echo the practice found in other hip-hop albums, presenting more voices and personalities to be heard (both literally and figuratively).

Thinking in terms of incorporating this album in a class or community space, the short interludes allow for breaks and group discussion. The lyrics are thoughtful and complex in their understanding of culture and intersectionality, but easy to follow along with. The language is accessible and the lyrics are nuanced, subverting the tradition of simplifying concepts and wording in music produced for children.

The songs in this album went by so quickly, and it hardly seemed like 17 tracks! The Love should be in every classroom, so bring on the social justice dance parties!

About the Artists:

AboutAlphabetRockers-PhotobyKristin-Chalmers
Photo by Kristin Chalmers

ALPHABET ROCKERS make music that makes change. Led by Kaitlin McGaw (she/her) and Tommy Shepherd (he/him), they create brave spaces to shape a more equitable world through hip hop. Their GRAMMY nominated 2018 album, Rise Shine #Woke has reached 300K kids and families since its release, inspiring American kids to stand up to hate and be their brave and beautiful selves. Their latest album, The Love (2019) lifts up voices of our trans, two-spirit and gender non-conforming community.

With headlining performances at Lollapalooza, The Kennedy Center, San Francisco Pride Festival, Art & Soul Festival (Oakland) and Kidchella (Philadelphia), and in over 50 schools across the country each year, diverse audiences love their contemporary sound and positive messages. They were Izzy Award Winners in 2018, American Library Association’s Top Album in 2017 and 2018, and won the Parents’ Choice Award for their 5-album catalogue. Alphabet Rockers appeal to a broad audience with lyrics like “I will stand up for you” and “I shine in my beautiful skin,” landing them in the top 5 songs of 2018 on Kids Place Live SiriusXM Radio. Their music, videos, concerts and curriculum are designed by an intercultural team of anti-bias thought leaders, educators, artists, parents and young people of all genders.

YOU KNOW I GOT YOU, SO GET ME!

Deadendia: The Broken Halo [released 10/17]

Written & Illustrated by: Hamish Steele

For ages: YA middle & upper grades (2 vaguely implied sexual situations)

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Neurodivergent Characters, LGBTQ, Supernatural, Friendship, Graphic Novels, Adventure, Love, Family, Acceptance. 

Summary: This graphic novel is the next installment in the series!  We were sent this book by the publisher, Flying Eye Books, (Nobrow in the UK) but all opinions are our own.

We really liked this book, and the diverse cast of characters can’t be beat.  Norma is an autistic POC queer character, Barney is trans, and Badyah is Muslim.  Besides this badass trio, there are a range of demons and angels all vying for control of the 7th neutral plane also known as earth.  Because of previous events, Norma’s soul won’t stay in her body when she’s surprised.  This is both helpful and aggravating as tensions mount between demons and angels.  Barney is hiding a secret career from his boyfriend though, but it’s very lucrative. Norma and Badyah along with some demons are working overtime at the Dead End, a haunted house during the day and demon B&B at night.  We don’t want to give too much about this graphic novel away, but it’s incredible and Corrie had to start reading it right away! It would be helpful to read the first volume before this one, but not necessary.  There are a lot of references to past events but enough context to provide the reader of this volume backstory.  We can’t wait to see what happens next, it’s an amazing series with awesome representation!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Screen-Shot-2018-01-01-at-21.35.01_3_400From the website of Hamish: My name is Hamish Ridley-Steele and I’m a Animation Director and Comic-Book artist from London. Soon after graduating, I directed Dead End, a short for Frederator Studio’s Cartoon Hangover. This lead to me directing two films for Nickelodeon’s International Shorts program, the second of which I collaborated on with Blink Industrieswho now represent me.

In 2014, I self-published my first graphic novel Pantheon thanks to Kickstarter. Since then, it has been republished by Nobrow Press. This year, they will also publish my webcomic DeadEndia which is based on that first Cartoon Hangover short.  I really like crocodiles. My dream is to meet one.

It Feels Good To Be Yourself; A Book About Gender Identity

Written by: Theresa Thorn

Illustrated by: Noah Grigni

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Acceptance, Self-Esteem, Gender Identity, LGBTQ Youth, Friendship,  Family, Love, Own Voices, Community, POC-Centric Narratives. 

Summary: This book is INCREDIBLE.  It was written clearly and in a style that shows us the author is familiar with children, and explaining things to them.  The book affirms and reaffirms for children that how they feel is more than ok, it should be greeted with love and acceptance and then celebrated.

The book’s characters have several different gender identities and describes being cisgender, transgender, and non-binary in a way that is very easy for young children to understand.  The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and some of the most diverse around.  There are disabled characters, characters with different body sizes, and children of color are very well represented!

The characters Ruthie, JJ, and Alex are described by how they feel inside, aka gender identity.  These explanations are very developmentally appropriate and easy for children to understand and identify with.  In the back, there is a helpful list of terms for those who may not be familiar.  These terms will also help older children get more vocabulary information from the story.  Additionally, there is a blurb about pronouns and a list of helpful resources.  There is even a note from both the author and illustrator about their own experiences with gender identity!  In our opinion, everyone should have a copy of this book!

Reflection Questions:

  • Did you identify with a specific character in this book?
  • What does is feel like when you try and tell someone something but they don’t listen?
  • How can you be a good friend to someone who tells you that adults might have made a mistake when deciding that they’re a boy or girl?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • There are lots of different things some people say are only for certain people.  Make a list of these things, and talk about why people say these things, and if they’re right or not.  Can anyone wear a dress?  Are certain games only for boys?  Who gets to decide these things?
  • Come up with strategies for what to say to someone who thinks another person or classmate is “weird” or “wrong” for feeling and doing what they want.  How can you educate someone that doesn’t think non-binary or transgender people exist?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

200068642Theresa Thorn is the cohost of the parenting humor podcast One Bad Mother and the coauthor of You’re Doing a Great Job! 100 Ways You’re Winning at Parenting. She lives in Los Angeles, California, and It Feels Good to Be Yourself is her first book for children.

 

 

 

headshotNoah Grigni is an illustrator and comic artist from Decatur, Georgia, whose work focuses on themes of gender fluidity, body positivity, and mental health. Through art and writing, they hope to make space for more stories centering diverse trans characters with depth, personality, and agency. Their work is introspective, bold, and playful, using vulnerability as a way to start difficult conversations and encourage honest reflection. Noah’s art is a reminder to heal, a call to action, and above all, an unapologetic celebration of trans and queer love. Noah lives in Boston with their partner, Braden, and their cat, Valentino.

Noah graduated from Lesley University in 2018 with a BFA in illustration and a minor in creative writing. Their art has appeared in It Feels Good To Be Yourself by Theresa Thorn, We’re Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology by Tara Avery and Jeanne Thornton, The Transgender Heroes Coloring Book by Avery and Cameron, The Gender Identity Workbook For Kids by Kelly Storck, and The Worry Workbook For Kids by Muniya Khanna. They have also self-published their art and writing in several zines, including Don’t Cut My Flowers, Dibujitos//Aguadilla, Anatomy of a Wallflower, and The Lighthouse, which are available on Etsy.  They recently finished illustrating The Big Talk by Rachel Simon, coming in 2020 from Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Noah is currently working on their first graphic novel, Cloudland, coming in 2021 from Macmillan, among other projects.

Noah was assigned female at birth, and came out as trans in high school.