Tag: Boy

“Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope”

"Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope"

Penelope is “no ordinary kid.” Penelope is a ninja—strong and smart, with ninja moves. It’s hard to be a ninja with a name like “Penelope,” though, when everyone calls you “cute.” And no one sees that Penelope is a boy—so he has to tell them, in an affirming new picture book that is also a true story, written by the real boy’s mother.

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope

Penelope, the five-year-old, Black protagonist of Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope, by Jodie Patterson (Crown Books for Young Readers), knows what he likes, from activities like karate and skateboarding to clothing choices like high-tops, baggy blue jeans, and button-front shirts. But his mom, dad, and three siblings, while loving, are too busy to stop and notice the most important thing about him: that he’s a boy. Readers see his anger and frustration as he stomps through the house and pounds his fists to get attention.

His mother finally asks why he’s so angry, and he replies, “Because everyone thinks I’m a girl.” It’s fine to feel like a boy, his mother responds, and he counters that he doesn’t just feel like a boy, “I AM a boy.” She listens quietly as he explains, “I love you, Mama, but I don’t want to be you. I want to be Papa.” He asks her to help him be a boy, holding her hand to “transfer some of my ninja powers to help her understand.” The first-person perspective of the book helps readers connect with Penelope’s feelings, perhaps nowhere more than in this scene.

His mother agrees unconditionally, and says they’ll make a plan to tell “everyone we love” that he is a boy. In the next spread, Penelope has a new, shorter haircut. His Grandpa G flies in from Ghana for Penelope’s birthday party, and his mother tells him of Penelope’s gender. The grandfather comments that in his language of Twi, “gender isn’t such a big deal. We don’t use gender pronouns.” This is a much-needed reminder for readers that the traditional Western view of gender isn’t all there is.

Penelope’s big brother still doesn’t understand, but their mother says that it doesn’t need to make sense to him. “This is about love,” she insists.

Penelope’s father then says that if Penelope is a boy, he has to tell him himself. Penelope stands up tall and does. This feels like a lesson in confident masculinity, in itself an affirmation of Penelope’s identity.

The next Monday, we see Penelope dressing in a shirt and tie for school. “I’m going to show my friends all of me,” he says, walking into the building “like I ‘own the joint’–just like Grandpa JohnnyBoy, from Harlem, taught me.”

A friend asks, “Hey, Pen, why are you wearing a boy’s uniform?” and Penelope tells him that he is a boy. He also asserts that he likes his full name, Penelope. His friend is unfazed and says he looks great. The school principal is likewise fully supportive, though she clearly hasn’t had transgender students before. She admits, “Today you’re my teacher.”

Later, we see Penelope in karate class, training with other students and showing that he doesn’t quit, even when a skill is hard. Eventually, Penelope competes in his first tournament, where he can put his training to the test, affirming his identity in the process. (I won’t spoil the outcome.)

I love this book. Maybe it’s that Penelope’s personality shines through on every page, both in the text and in the illustrations by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, which give him just the right amount of little-kid swagger and put a sparkle in his eyes. Maybe it’s that Penelope’s karate training gives the story a plotline other than just his coming out, making him feel more well-rounded than the protagonists of some picture books about trans children. Maybe it’s the lack of preachiness in the text, or the loving support of family and friends.

Maybe, too, it’s that there are no White people here. The few background characters who aren’t Black read as other people of color. I say this as a White person myself; there are enough LGBTQ-inclusive picture books with White protagonists and largely White supporting casts. The genre needs more books by and about people of color, and we White folks don’t necessarily need to be in them. Additionally, the characters here aren’t just Black, but take visible pride in Black culture and heritage, not only through the reference to Ghana and Harlem, but also through visual touches like a map of Africa in Penelope’s room, a Ghanaian flag on the family fridge, and African masks in the school principal’s office. Our identities are intersectional, and Patterson and Barlow convey that seamlessly.

The book also gets bonus points for the subtle touch of the endpapers: in the ones at the front of the book, we see sketches of Penelope still in girl’s clothing, looking nervous and shaky as he tries tricks on his skateboard; in the ones at the end of the book, he is wearing boy’s clothes and looking cool and confident as he nails his skateboard moves.

Finally, as more and more states are enacting bans on trans youth in sports, this story serves as a timely reminder of the power that sports have to instill life lessons, like dedication and perseverance, that can benefit all youth. Trans youth have the right to access these lessons by engaging in sports as their authentic selves.

All of these elements form a winning combination by Patterson, a writer, entrepreneur, and activist who is chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Her 2019 memoir for adults, on which she based the story of Born Ready, is The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation, and also highly recommended. Families with trans boys should especially appreciate Born Ready and its determined protagonist, but it also feels like the kind of engaging story that just may help cisgender children and their parents better understand what it means to be trans. It’s strong and with an impact you might not see coming—kind of like a ninja.

One further note: In an interview with New York Family last week, Patterson noted that while her son initially wanted to keep the name “Penelope,”  he is now in eighth grade and about two months ago decided to go by “Penel.” The book was already in production then. I have used “Penelope” above in talking about the character in the book, since that is the name used there, but would of course use “Penel” in talking about the real boy.

You Have To Marry A Boy After Sometime 🏳️‍🌈 : actuallesbians

You Have To Marry A Boy After Sometime 🏳️‍🌈 :

A place for discussions for and by cis and trans lesbians, bisexual girls, chicks who like chicks, bi-curious folks, dykes, butches, femmes, girls who kiss girls, birls, bois, aces, LGBT allies, and anyone else interested! Our subreddit is named r/actuallesbians because r/lesbians is not really for or by lesbians–it was meant to be a joke. We’re not a militant or exclusive group, so feel free to join up!

Evangelical university sues disgraced former boss over affair with pool boy

Jerry Falwell Jr

Liberty University is suing Jerry Falwell Jr for $10 million, claiming he withheld scandalous information from trustees while negotiating a new contract for himself.

Falwell, a key Trump ally and one of the most powerful figures in the evangelical movement, was removed as head of the powerful private Christian university in August after he and his wife were accused of pursuing an improper relationship with a 20-year-old pool boy.

The scandal continues after the university filed a lawsuit in Lynchburg, Virginia on Thursday (15 April) alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duty while he was in post.

Liberty said that Falwell, 58, breached his duties by refusing to disclose his relationship with the pool boy and negotiating a higher salary and severance package when he knew the affair could damage the school.

Instead of divulging the active threat to Liberty’s reputation, “Falwell Jr chose personal protection,” the suit claims, by leading “a scheme to cover up the illicit conduct”.

He did so despite knowing that “infidelity, immodesty, and acceptance of a loose lifestyle would stand in stark contrast to the conduct expected of leaders at Liberty,” it continues.

Falwell is also accused of improperly mixing university duties with his personal life and failing to disclose or address “his personal impairment by alcohol”.

Furthermore, the suit alleges that he deceived the board’s executive committee into redesigning his contract to include a higher severance payout if he resigned for “good reason” or if Liberty terminated his contract without cause.

He claimed it would serve as a “safety valve” if his support for Donald Trump proved damaging to the school’s reputation.

But the real reason for negotiating the deal, the suit claims, was to protect against the possibility that his pool boy would take their relationship to the press.

The suit also claims that Falwell used a non-Liberty email address and personal devices to conduct university business.

Although Liberty paid for the devices and confidential university information is stored on them, Falwell has refused to return them, the university says.

Falwell filed his own suit against the university in October, claiming his reputation was damaged by the university firing him over the scandal. He dropped it in December.

A Gay, Black Boy Finds a Liberated Childhood

A Gay, Black Boy Finds a Liberated Childhood

Life can be scary for a young, gay, Black boy growing up in a society full of fear and intolerance. The star of a new graphic novel, however, has the love of family, friends, and educators to help him navigate the challenges as he finds his empowered voice.

What You Don't Know

In What You Don’t Know: A Story of Liberated Childhood (Dottir Press) Anastasia Higginbotham uses her signature collage artwork to give us the first-person story of a young boy named Demetrius. Demetrius begins by observing that “What you don’t know is that life was great before kindergarten…. Then school happened.” He asks, “What are we even learning here besides all the things we have to be afraid of and all of the things we can’t do?” Despite the scariness of school, however, he has friends and protectors who include another queer student, a “radical librarian,” a loving teacher, and a queer counselor. “But even they are a little bit scared,” he notes observantly.

He is also grateful that he doesn’t have to hide his true self from his dad, a Black man who “loves me completely.” His mom, too, has “her own sense of justice and her own ideas about God.” We see her reading something on her phone, getting angry at those who are “endangering the lives of trans kids.” She stresses to Demetrius that he matters and is not the problem. (The mom could be read as a light-skinned Black woman or Latina, although Higginbotham says on the credits page that the mom is White, and modeled after herself, her mother, and others.)

Despite the support he has, however, Demetrius feels that “the world’s ugliness toward gay people lands right ON me,” and asks, “And what about the ones who aren’t loved at home? What about the kids whose own families reject them?” (Here’s what we know about that.) He sits in church with his mother and notes that all he feels there is shame—“But the shame isn’t mine and it’s not coming from ‘God.’” He imagines his spirit floating up to Jesus, depicted as a Black man, and asking, “Does it hurt your feelings if I don’t believe in you?” Jesus replies, “It’s my job to believe in you, and I do.”

Demetrius asks Jesus if there are other gods. Jesus replies, “Divinity is everywhere, in everyone and everything,” and says he loves everyone, from Billy Porter in a dress (who floats by in several images) to those who are homophobic. When another churchgoer confronts Demetrius’ mom and tells her to stop dressing him in flowers because he’s a boy, however, the mother apologizes to Demetrius for bringing him there and says she will immediately stop going to that church. Higginbotham deftly shows how Demetrius can be “cool” with Jesus while also rejecting an institution that perpetuates homophobia.

We will rewrite the rules we live by and love the world into balance.

A secondary plotline that we see play out is that Demetrius and his friends are recording a podcast, one that further affirms everyone’s right to be themselves and reinforces young people’s power to create change. “We will rewrite the rules we live by and love the world into balance,” they narrate. At the end of the book, Demetrius’ parents continue to encourage his own style and voice as he and his friends celebrate the launch of the podcast. “What you don’t know is I’m always gonna love myself and find others who do, too,” he asserts, dancing into his future.

Higginbotham manages to acknowledge the bias that Demetrius faces, put the emphasis on the love he receives, and make him an empowered and confident protagonist who is grateful for help but not a passive victim. He knows the world can be harsh, and acknowledges that some things scare him, but also knows where to find the support he needs to be the person he knows he is. It’s a tricky balance, but Higginbotham nails it.

I should note, too, that while the format at first looks like a picture book, Demetrius is in middle school and the vocabulary level, length (140+ pages), and nuances place the book for me in the middle grade category as a graphic novel. (Obviously, some older elementary school students are ready for middle grade books; this is just a guide.)

Much as I have long waved the flag for more LGBTQ kids’ books that aren’t “about” being LGBTQ, there’s still a place for some that thoughtfully and directly address being queer in today’s society. This is one of them, which presents an inspiring vision of what queer kids can be with the love and support of family, friends, and educators.

School Districts in Two States Say Perfectly Appropriate Picture Book About a Transgender Boy Is Inappropriate

School Districts in Two States Say Perfectly Appropriate Picture Book

In the past month, school districts in two states have tried to ban Call Me Max, a delightful picture book about a transgender boy by a transgender author, calling it “not appropriate” for the children who heard it read to them. This would be awful at any time, but at a moment when trans youth are under threat from anti-trans bills in at least 24 states, it feels like the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Call Me Max - Kyle Lukoff

In Utah

In February, a third-grade student in Utah brought the book into class and asked the teacher to read it at storytime, which she did. According to school district spokesperson Doug Perry, students then asked some questions that the teacher “deflected,” reported the Salt Lake Tribune. Afterwards, “A few families then called the district, angry that the book was shared with their kids without permission.”

The teacher made a “mistake,” Perry said. “That book is not appropriate at the grade level it was being shared.” In response to the complaints, the district suspended its “equity book bundles,” a program to bring more inclusive literature, particularly around race, to the classroom. Call Me Max was not part of those bundles, but the district spokesperson said they were reviewing them “to see if any are similar to Call Me Max in topic or might otherwise cause concern.”

Author Kyle Lukoff told Newsweek that he can’t believe the district is withholding whole equity book bundle while they deliberate. “I only want my career to be in conversation/solidarity/support of others, and this feels awful.”

Lukoff explained to the Tribune that his book was written for a kindergarten to third grade audience, and that he’s read it to first graders who were unfazed when he explained what “transgender” means. “I find in my experience that adults think that term unlocks a lot of confusion in children when it really doesn’t,” he said. “It’s only a problem if you think that being transgender is itself wrong. And it’s not.”

As further proof that kids get it, a number of Lukoff’s former students, from first to seventh grade, wrote a letter to the school board in support of him and his book, saying, “By pausing the program, and doing so on the basis of a children’s book about a transgender child, you are telling children who may be a bit different than others, and transgender children especially, that you do not value them, their lives, or their experiences.” (I wrote something similar back in 2007 in relation to attempts to ban books with same-sex parents.)

In Texas

Earlier this month, too, a teacher in Texas read Call Me Max to her fourth grade class. The book was on a list she had shared for the annual Read Across America observance, and included books related to Black and Women’s History Months. Some parents protested when they learned that Max had been read, reported CBS Austin. The district’s chief learning officer, Susan Fambrough, then sent a letter to parents (republished at Lukoff’s blog) stating that the list had not been “appropriately reviewed” and calling the book “not appropriate to be read aloud to an entire elementary-age class.” She added that “the subject of gender identity may be addressed instructionally—but only with proper caution and prior parent awareness.” After the book was read, she said, “Counselors were made available to support students, and the school administration worked with families to provide an explanation and reassurances.”

Lukoff, who was an elementary school librarian for eight years himself, wrote a thoughtful answer to Fambrough in which he asked her to explain the district’s actions of providing counselors and reassurances to families—a response he’d only seen before after crises like a death in the school community or the school shooting at Sandy Hook. “Do you believe that a readaloud about a transgender child is an equivalent trauma? How do you think transgender people in your community felt having their identities treated like a disaster?” he inquired. He also asked if the district provided similar support and resources after a student experiences homophobia, transphobia, racism, or ableism.

More than Books

These attempts to ban Max are infuriating but not surprising. LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books have long been among the most challenged in the country, according to the American Library Association (ALA). In 2012, the same Utah school district where there was a fuss about Max removed Patricia Polacco’s In Our Mother’s House, about a two-mom family, from elementary school shelves, making it available only with written permission from a parent. And in just the past couple of years, several other authors of LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books have been banned from talking at schools even when it wasn’t clear that they’d mention those titles.

But the baseless fury around Max comes at a time when transgender people themselves are under attack more broadly. Just this week, Mississippi enacted a law banning transgender girls in Mississippi’s public schools and colleges from competing on girls and women’s sports teams. It’s one of a slew of anti-transgender bills now before legislatures around the country. If you are in any of those states, please reach out to your legislators and tell them to vote against these bills.

If you need to report that a book is being challenged in your local school or library, you can use this form from the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom.

Also, let’s show Lukoff some direct support, too. His When Aidan Became a Brother, about a transgender boy preparing for a new sibling, won the prestigious Stonewall Award last year. Call Me Max is wonderful as well, and its sequels, Max and the Talent Show and Max on the Farm, give us more adventures about the personable protagonist and his friends. The second two books are less “about” being transgender, but Max still responds to certain things in ways that reflect his transgender identity. Lukoff is one of the best at finding this balance. His first middle grade novel, Too Bright to See, comes out April 20. Stay tuned for a review—but if you want to take a chance on it (I would), it’s available for preorder at Bookshop and Amazon. You can also look up more children’s books with transgender characters in my database. (Start typing “transgender” into the Tags box and you’ll see various options.) If you aren’t in a position to buy these yourself, please recommend them to your local library, and leave online reviews—I’ve heard many authors say this helps.

Max—and real transgender children—shouldn’t have to bear this alone.


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“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