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Two Picture Books Offer Joyous Portrayals of Black Trans Kids and Supportive Families

Two Picture Books Offer Joyous Portrayals of Black Trans Kids

I’m continuing to wrap up the LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ book reviews for the year, so here are two recent titles that share the stories of Black transgender children—one a girl and one a boy—and their supportive families.

My Rainbow

My Rainbow, by DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal and illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila), is based on Trinity’s own life. The book opens in the Neal’s living room, where Trinity, her two sibings, and her mother and father are sitting together. Trinity is stroking her pet pig, Peter Porker. “She loved soft things, just like many kids with autism, and Peter’s hair was perfect,” we learn. Her father is playing the cello, “enveloping the room in tranquility and making it feel safe.”

That sets the tone for the rest of the book, as the family maintains a safe and supportive place for Trinity and her siblings (including Hyperion, who is nonbinary and uses “they” pronouns). One day, however, Trinity says that she can’t be a girl because she doesn’t have long hair. Her mother notes that she, the mother, has short hair and is a girl.

For Trinity, however, it’s different. “I’m a transgender girl,” she says.

Her mother already knew she was trans. “Trinity’s gender was part of what made her a masterpiece, just like her autism and her Black skin,” she reflects. Yet she senses Trinity is trying to convey something more. She listens, and Trinity explains, “People don’t care if cisgender girls like you have short hair. But it’s different for transgender girls. I need long hair!” Her mom gets it. The problem is, however, that Trinity’s sensitivity to texture means she dislikes how her hair made her itchy when she tried to grow it out before. Her parents confer, but neither has an idea.

Trinity’s older sibling Lucien then suggests going to a beauty shop (where the clerk has a “they/them” tag on her apron), but none of the wigs he and his mom find there seem right. He then has the idea that Trinity needs her very own rainbow wig. The mom works long into the night on the wig, although she has never made one before.

In the morning, Trinity cries tears of joy at the wig her mom made from the colors Lucien chose. The rest of the family comes in as she is dancing joyously and surround her with a loving group hug.

This book is such a pleasure on so many levels. It’s great to see an entire family of color in an LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ book; it’s terrific to see a story with a trans character that doesn’t center around the revelation that they are trans (an important topic, but already done in several books); and it’s so, so, wonderful to see that the whole family is nothing but supportive right from page one. The love of the family for Trinity and their desire to help her shines from every page. Less important, but notable are the antics of Peter Porker, who tries on wigs, paints his hooves with nail polish, and generally provides background amusement on every page—the kind of fun extra details that can make a picture book even more of a delight to read.

Read more about the real Trinity and her family, their fight for transgender rights, and their pet pig, in this 2017 article from DelawareToday.

My Name Is Troy

My Name Is Troy, by Christian A’Xavier Lovehall and illustrated by Chamar M. Cooper, is a self-published title available for sale through the author’s website. “My name is Troy, and I’m a beautiful, Black Trans boy!” it begins, then takes us through Troy’s day in rhyming couplets as he shares what he likes and doesn’t like. “It’s okay that I don’t like dresses, or my hair long in pretty tresses,” we learn. He doesn’t like pink, or playing with dolls, but “it’s okay” that he likes to play outdoors, play sports, camp, explore, and play with bugs. He likes race cars and trucks, vampires, zombies, and collecting rocks. “Like most kids” he also doesn’t like to do his chores. As he goes about his day, we see images from his life and with his parents, who are also Black.

While most of his likes lean towards the rough-and-tumble variety, he’s also “kind and not mean” and tells us, “It’s okay when I cry and need a hug” (as we see the image of his father hugging him). He proudly waves (or wears) the trans flag on several pages, and towards the end, we see a “photo” of him and his extended family as we read, “I love my family and they love me too!”

What the book lacks in a narrative plot, it makes up for with a joyous “slice of life” portrayal that conveys Troy’s self-confidence, enthusiasm, and family support. Trans boys whose activities and interests go beyond the traditionally “boyish” ones that Troy favors might not see themselves reflected quite as well, but they should still be buoyed by his happiness and the love that surrounds him.

Lovehall himself is “a proud Black Trans man with Caribbean roots” he tells us on his website. He founded and organized the annual Philly Trans March in 2011, has worked as a certified peer specialist helping trans people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, and is a certified doula, hip-hop artist, and freelance photographer. The back of the book tells us that this story “is a re-envisioning of the love he wished he received from his family.” He adds, “My Name Is Troy is not only a children’s book, but also a tool to help families see the importance of creating support systems and safer homes for Trans youth.” May his words and his book reach the ears that need to hear them.

Both My Name Is Troy and My Rainbow fill a much needed gap in the picture book representation of young Black trans lives. No one book (or even two books) can capture the entirety of those lives, however. And while the images of supportive families are absolutely vital, one further thing that neither book here shows us is Black trans children playing with friends who are supportive of their identities. Kyle Lukoff’s Max and Friends series and Tobi Hill-Meyer’s A Princess of Great Daring are good models for showing how this can be done. Perhaps that’s a subject for Troy and Trinity’s sequels.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

An incredible educational offer for wedding and event pros

An incredible educational offer for wedding and event pros

An incredible educational offer for wedding and event pros

Peter Thiel is doubling down on the most awful candidates the GOP has to offer / Queerty

Peter Thiel is doubling down on the most awful candidates

Kris Kobach was a prototype for Donald Trump before Trump ever ran for president.

The Republican made his reputation as the Kansas Secretary of State by crusading against immigrants and (imaginary) voter fraud, but he also trafficked in virulent homophobia. At one point, he compared homosexuality to drug use and polygamy. 

Voters in Kansas are going to the polls today to decide whether Kobach should be the GOP nominee for the Senate. And his campaign has been picking up steam, thanks in no small part to Peter Thiel, the gay billionaire who founded PayPal and made a key early Facebook investment. Thiel has given a PAC supporting Kobach nearly $1 million, a sum that dwarfs the $400,000 that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending on behalf of Rep. Roger Marshall, Kobach’s opponent for the party nomination.

In light of Thiel’s past support for Trump, the donation can hardly be a surprise. Thiel spoke at the 2016 Republican convention, singing Trump’s praises (and giving the candidate cover for the anti-LGBTQ policies that his supporters wanted), and donated $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign.

Trump’s performance once in office did little to change Thiel’s support. “With all the flaws, all the challenges the Trump administration’s had, I believe it was incredibly important to articulate certain things about how our political institutions and our society were not working as well before,” Thiel claimed in 2018.

However, Trump’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have led Thiel to shift gears. According to a report last month in the Wall Street Journal, Thiel has been telling friends “in private conversations from his oceanfront estate in Hawaii” where he is waiting out the coronavirus in luxury that he thinks Trump’s chances of re-election are dim. Thiel has taken to calling the Trump campaign the S.S. Minnow, a reference to the ill-fated tour boat from Gilligan’s Island.

Thiels is instead putting his money into Congressional campaigns in the apparent hope of salvaging Republicans from a complete rout this November. In choosing Kobach, however, Thiel is placing his bets on a particularly crazy horse. Establishment Republicans are desperate for Kobach to lose, convinced that he will repeat his disastrous performance as the 2018 gubernatorial nominee. Democrats are so eager for Kobach to be the nominee that they have actually been running ads promoting his strong ties to Trump. (Trump has not endorsed Kobach, apparently miffed that his endorsement in 2018 didn’t work.)

But Thiel is not really a Republican. He’s a libertarian. Which means he subscribes to some pretty far-out ideas, including the belief that freedom and democracy are, in his words, not “compatible.”  They’re the kind of ideas that are called provocative when a wealthy person holds them and crackpot when anyone else does.

It’s also the kind of philosophy that writer Ayn Rand, the major influence on libertarianism in the U.S., put forth in the mid-20th century. In her view, successful businessmen were superior beings being assaulted by the lower orders and the welfare state. (Just read Atlas Shrugged–if you can bear it.)

You can see why that would appeal to Thiel, who can happily support homophobes like Kobach while still enjoying the protections that wealth provides. Thiel just wants to blow the current system up altogether. If you want to burn the building down, you might pause to think about the people who live in it, though. For whatever reason, Thiel does not. Perhaps because he’s wealthy enough that he can live wherever he chooses and feels protected from the social discord that inequality is creating in America and around the world.

Thiel is described by friends as generous, intelligent, and thoroughly decent. He is married to a man and is raising two kids. But even parenthood has not seemed to change his radical political views. Kobach is particularly pointed in his hatred of queer families.

Kobach claims same-sex parents are “certainly not good for the kids.” He has also compared marriage equality to drug addiction.

He also said that gay rights groups promote “homosexual pedophilia.”

Maybe Thiel’s lifeline to his campaign will cause Kobach to rethink his views, but we are not holding our breath.

So look for more Thiel investments in the worst candidates the GOP has to offer, the very candidates the GOP will have to banish if the party is ever to rid itself of the rot of Trumpism.

As long as Thiel is bankrolling those kinds of candidates, the rot will continue for a long, long while.