Tag: Boy

“Carlos, the Fairy Boy” Finds His Wings in New Picture Book

"Carlos, the Fairy Boy" Finds His Wings in New Picture

I think we could all use some joy right now, so here’s a look at a brand-new, bilingual, #OwnVoices picture book about a boy learning about his cultural traditions in Panama while he gets support from his abuela to follow his fairy boy dreams.

Carlos the Fairy Boy - Carlos, El Niño Hada

Carlos, the Fairy Boy/Carlos, El Niño Hada, written and illustrated by Juan A. Ríos Vega (Reflection Press), at first glance has a similar story arc to many other picture books about gender creative boys: a boy wants to wear something gender creative, is told he can’t, but ultimately finds support to do so. Where Carlos rises above many others, though, is in the cultural specificity and the #OwnVoices perspective of Ríos, “a queer Latino educator and researcher from Panama,” as his bio tells us. The story begins as Carlos is flying to Panama with his parents to spend time with cousins during carnival. His parents tell him about the traditional parades and the two carnival queens who are the stars.

When Carlos learns that his two female cousins will be on a queen’s float dressed as fairies, he wants to join them, but they and his Papá say only girls can do that. His abuelita (grandmother), however, takes his side, saying, “During carnival, we need to celebrate who we really are.” She takes him to visit Luis, a famous carnival costume maker, and tells Luis, “He is very special like you.” I love that Carlos’ abuelita, while an ally, knows enough to take him to a member of the LGBTQ community for further support. The message that there are other gender creative people in the world, grown up and successful, is an important one that many other picture books overlook.

Luis makes Carlos a dazzling costume and admits that he himself wanted to be a fairy boy when he was younger, but was bullied about it. Carlos assures him he could still be a fairy. I like that Ríos has a self-confident child offering support to someone from an older generation, rather than the child being bullied and needing to learn lessons from an adult. (Obviously, both things happen in real life; I just think children may respond more positively to books where the child is the knowing one.)

At the end of the book (spoiler alert), Carlos proudly joins the parade—where he sees Luis in the crowd also wearing a fairy costume.

Ríos’ bright collage illustrations capture the festive spirit of the carnival. Carlos and his family have medium-brown skin and dark hair; Luis is a fair-skinned redhead; and the other people of Panama have a variety of skin tones, from dark to light.

In an afterward, Ríos notes that like Luis, he was bullied as a child, but his abuelita “recognized that I was different and did small things to show me that I was important and special.” And the character of Luis “is based on stories I gathered from the talented friends and men who work on the queens’ gowns all year.”

This is the second book from Reflection Press mentored by co-founder (and queer parent) Maya Gonzalez. The first, When We Love Someone We Sing to Them/Cuando Amamos Cantamoswritten by Ernesto Javier Martí­nez and illustrated by Gonzalez (my review here), is similarly steeped in family support and cultural tradition (in this case, that of the Mexican serenata) as it shows a boy getting his father’s help in crafting a song for the boy he loves. Both books are wonderful examples of how to thoughtfully portray LGBTQ people in our intersectional identities.

Also check out the award-winning Gonzalez’s own

Call Me Tree/Llamame arbol, about a child of unspecified gender who finds resonance with the natural world; her books with partner Matthew SG about pronouns, They She He Me: Free to Be! and They, She, He easy as ABC; and their Playing with Pronouns Card Deck.


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Father’s request to see teen son’s “boy toy” goes viral for all the right reasons / Queerty

Father’s request to see teen son’s “boy toy” goes viral

A father’s request to see his son’s “boy toy” has gone viral for the purest and loveliest of reasons.

A teen named Louis shared the text exchange between him and his father.

“Send me the pic of u and ur boy toy,” read Dad’s text, followed by two adorable photos of Louis with his boyfriend.

Related: Muslim father attempted suicide after his son came out, now they’re closer than ever

In the caption, Louis adds that his father wanted the photos so he could show off the couple at work.

Here’s the tweet that’s since been liked over 50K times and shared by 7K people:

After a few days of overwhelmingly positive response, Louis added this to the thread:

“I just love that my dad was showing off me and Christian,” Louis told Buzzfeed News.

“Everyone was telling how much they love my dad — that he was the father of the year.”

He added that one commenter said, “Oh, I’m straight and my dad doesn’t even do this with me.”

Related: NBA star makes big LGBTQ reveal

“It’s not even us being gay,” he said. “It’s just my dad accepting who I’m in love with.”

Louis’ father, Louis Sr., was happy to learn his love had spread so far.

“It makes me feel good that people are out there giving me props,” he said.

He added that Louis Jr. has always been supported and loved in their home. “Always. Ever since day one,” he said. “Ever since he came out to us.”

Classic Picture Book About Gender Creative Boy Is Back in Print

Classic Picture Book About Gender Creative Boy Is Back in

One of the first picture books about a gender creative boy, published in the 1970s but long out of print, is now available in a new edition produced by its illustrator, Marian Buchanan. She recently shared with me some details about the lengthy journey to its reprinting and why it still holds lessons for today.

Jesse's Dream Skirt by Bruce Mack. Illustration by Marian Buchanan

Jesse’s Dream Skirt, written by Bruce Mack (under the name “Morning Star”) was first published in 1977 in the second and final issue of Magnus, a gay men’s magazine, with illustrations by Larry Hermsen. It was picked up by Lollipop Power Press, a small, feminist publishing collective in North Carolina, who put out a call for a new illustrator. Buchanan, who belonged to a women artisans’ co-op that sold their books, submitted samples of her work. Lollipop Power and Mack chose her to illustrate the revised story that they published in 1979. (See her blog for an interesting discussion of their specific revisions.) Lollipop Power in 1979 also published the first LGBTQ-inclusive picture book in English, Jane Severance’s When Megan Went Away.

In Jesse’s story, we meet a young White boy who likes to wear things that “whirl, twirl, flow and glow.” One night, he dreams of a skirt of his own and his mother agrees to help him make it. She asks gently, though, if he’s considered what other kids might think. Jesse is undeterred.

When Jesse wears his skirt to daycare, the teacher, a Black man, is supportive. Some children smile but others criticize; one calls him a “sissy.” Jesse is upset.

The teacher then gathers the racially-diverse class and asks why they were teasing Jesse. They have an animated discussion about their own varied experiences with gender and clothing. This variety of perspectives is “one of the book’s strengths,” Buchanan said.

Jesse's Dream Skirt by Bruce Mack. Illustration by Marian Buchanan

Jesse’s Dream Skirt: Interior image of Jesse and teacher by Marian Buchanan. Used with permission.

Most of the children, it turns out, like Jesse’s skirt, which prompts him to share his dream. The teacher then takes a piece of material from a box and wraps it around his waist. Some children follow and make dresses, capes, or turbans from pieces of fabric. They parade and dance around the room, although “Jesse didn’t mind that some just watched.” On the last page, he twirls in his skirt, just like in his dream.

The teacher provides a good model for adults in similar situations, Buchanan observed. He facilitates “an exploration of [the children’s] feelings and behavior rather than telling them off or guiding them towards any particular perspective,” which may help children hearing the story to have “a similar exploration and discussion.”

Additionally, she said, in some other books, bullies simply “become villains rather than small children under the influence of the culture of prejudice in which they’re being raised.” In contrast, Jesse shows readers how to engage with bullies and sometimes bring them over “to a more open-minded point of view.” Yet the book also conveys “that this isn’t about trying to convert anyone to being a certain way themselves; it’s about letting everyone be the way they are individually.”

Despite its strengths, Jesse’s Dream Skirt was never reprinted as a standalone book after Lollipop Power closed in 1986 and Carolina Wren Press, a non-profit North Carolina publisher, acquired the rights. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, in his 2012 book about LGBTQ children’s literature, Rainbow Family Collections, opined that Jesse, which was “much more blatant in its treatment of gender nonconformity,” was overshadowed by the 1979 publication—from a larger publisher and an established author—of Tomie DePaola’s Oliver Button Is a Sissy, about a boy who prefers drawing and dancing rather than sports.

Still, some found great value in Jesse’s story, as Buchanan discovered when she investigated reprinting it for its 30th anniversary in 2009. She found expensive used copies online and realized it had become “a sought-after classic in some educational and LGBTQI+ circles.” The San Francisco-based Lesbian and Gay Parents Association and the Buena Vista Lesbian and Gay Parents Group had included it in their 1999 anti-bullying guide “Preventing Prejudice – Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgender Lesson Plan Guide for Elementary Schools.” That, too, went out of print (though not before rousing the ire of some conservative Christians, who claimed Jesse’s story was pushing children to “‘become’ homosexual,” Buchanan said).

When she contacted Carolina Wren, they suggested she republish Jesse herself. She didn’t want to do so without Mack’s permission, but none of them had his contact information. She eventually discovered that he had died in 1994 of complications from AIDS, she noted at her blog. She later tracked down his heirs—his brothers—via a genealogy website, and they agreed to a reprint at the end of 2019, just in time for the 40th anniversary. The updated edition has the 1979 text and interior images, a new, full-color cover, a clearer font, an introduction by Buchanan, and reader testimonials.

She admitted that the black-and-white illustrations are “a little dated.” Nevertheless, she said, she’s gotten praise for their “soul and emotion,” adding, “The story itself is not outdated—which I suppose is unfortunate in a way, because it means there’s still a need for this kind of counteracting of stereotyping, prejudice, and bullying.”

She does think there’s more “awareness and acceptance” of many diversity issues today, including “non-conformity to culturally defined gender expression.” Yet she reminds us to remain aware of the differences between gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Jesse is not necessarily transgender or gay, she notes in her introduction. “He may just be what is nowadays called a ‘pink boy.’”

Whatever Jesse’s identity, the book remains a gem of thoughtfulness about a gender creative child. This new edition, available only at Amazon.com, should find its way back to many bookshelves.

Originally published as my Mombian newspaper column.


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Sara Ramirez Is Non-Binary: Icon Instagrams Capacity to Be “Girlish Boy, Boyish Girl, Boyish Boy, All, Neither”

Sara Ramirez Is Non-Binary: Icon Instagrams Capacity to Be "Girlish

This morning the incredibly talented multi-hyphenate actor, singer bisexual icon and advocate Sara Ramirez announced a new profile picture on their Twitter and Instagram.

With the Instagram photo — a selfie of the star with their signature haircut, a purple shirt, and classic small square earring — came the following caption:

“In me is the capacity to be
Girlish boy
Boyish girl
Boyish boy
Girlish girl
All
Neither
#nonbinary
♥️💜♥️”

Ramirez quietly updated their pronouns to she/they on Twitter and Instagram a while back (though we don’t have calendar days in front of us, as a Autostraddle’s resident Sara Ramirez “celebrity expert” my guestimation is pretty close to a year now). They’ve also updated their bio to include “non-binary human” right at the top. But this is the first major post since then — that we can remember — to address their gender directly.

Of course, at this point, in our community, the legend of Sara Ramirez enters the door before they do. First there’s the Tony Award for playing Lady of the Lake in 2005’s Spamalot. Then, for a lot us, there’s Callie Torres who stole our heart on Grey’s Anatomy, clocking in more than 240 episodes and becoming the longest running queer character in television history. After leaving Grey’s in 2016, Ramirez came out as came out as bisexual in a speech that I’ve personally memorized, saying that they were committed to embracing all of their intersections as an multiracial, immigrant, queer person of color. And of course there’s the butch dreamboat Kat Sandoval on who basically stopped time itself with a quirk of an eyebrow on Madam Secretary.  Since publicly coming out as bisexual, Sara has been nothing short of a show-stopper — working closely Latinx, immigrant, people of color, queer and trans communities, activists, and artists. Using their platform at every turn to uplift those most marginalized and the voices that we need to hear from most.

I’ve told this story before, but when Callie Torres first entered my life, I was still telling myself that I was straight. The last ten years have been a journey; for myself, for the character, and for the actor who played her.

I could have never guessed in 2006, sitting cross legged on my dorm room, stuffing my face with popcorn, that one day I would be an out queer woman, let alone the Deputy Editor of this publication (ha!). I couldn’t have known that the character screen who already captured my attention would soon become the mirror through I gained the courage to come out. I could have never imagined that the actor who played her would also come out and then show the fuck out, giving back to our community so generously and willingly.

In every moment and in every way, Sara Ramirez has proven to be loving to their community, never afraid of speaking up, never afraid to a beacon. Being courageous and grappling publicly with the hard questions of social justice and privilege and how to best create change. And today, we’re stopping for a moment to say, Thank You.

When Sara Ramirez first came out as bisexual, they made me feel a little less alone in this world. It helped light a path that brought me to this website. And today, less than five days away from their 45th birthday, I know they are lighting that path for so many more.

So on behalf of everyone at Autostraddle:

Dear Sara,
We’re so happy you’re living more authentically every year! (and also hotter every year, too!) We love you today, tomorrow and always.

— Team AS