On Monday, the superintendent of San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) sent an email to parents announcing that the nonprofit Gender Nation would be donating 2,000 “age appropriate LGBTQ+ inclusive” books to schools in SDUSD.
As part of the “mission to empower students through inclusive stories,” SDUSD schools “will now have access to more literature specifically geared towards LGBTQ+ students,” the email states. According to Gender Nation co-founder Keiko Feldman, “these books are just stories that help [kids] feel less alone.”
There is no indication that the new gender-affirming books have been added to the official curriculum. However, a resource teacher in the district’s Youth Advocacy department named Mick Rabin is quoted in the email as saying, “it’s important for kids to…see their stories often and routinely throughout the school year.”
Some of the children’s books being donated by Gender Nation are physically beautiful, complete with lush watercolor illustrations and lyrical prose. Many of the themes addressed in the books, like individuality, self-confidence, and kindness, are standard fare for children’s literature. However, many parents, including the mom who reached out to me about this story, are concerned about the effect the books could have on children. Rather than resolving alienation, as intended, parents worry that the introduction of transgender ideology to young children will end up creating gender confusion in children who would not otherwise struggle with them or exacerbating or prolonging such feelings.
Those parents are joined in their concerns by medical professionals. While gender “affirmative” children’s books explicitly teach children to embrace gender dysphoria as a stable component of their identity, research suggests that 65-94% of children with gender dysphoria eventually outgrow it. In light of this research, the use of puberty blocking drugs has been banned for persons under 16 in the U.K. (with exceptions granted with a court order), and the nation’s only youth gender clinic has been rated “inadequate” by inspectors and its treatments have sparked a lack of confidence by the clinicians themselves. Similar restrictions on hormone therapy have been considered in several U.S. states.
Of the sixteen books on the Gender Nation book list, 7 explicitly endorse childhood transgenderism and/or gender fluid ideology. They include:
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and YouTube star Jazz Jennings. “From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body.” (Age: 4-8 years)
George, by Alex Gino. “When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.” (Age: 8-12 years)
It Feels Good To Be Yourself, by Theresa Thorn. “Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between.” (Age: 4-8 years)
Some of the kids’ books approach gender fluidity through metaphor, which may cause confusion in adults as well as children:
Neither, by Airlie Anderson. “In the Land of This and That, there are only two kinds: blue bunnies and yellow birds. But one day a funny green egg hatches, and a little creature that’s not quite a bird and not quite a bunny pops out. It’s neither!” (Age: 4-8 years)
Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall. “Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue.” (Age: 4-8 years)
From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea, by Kai Cheng Thom. “The only problem is they can’t decide what to be: A boy or a girl? A bird or a fish? A flower or a shooting star?” (Age: 3-8 years)
An additional 3 books discuss gender-nonconforming dress and/or a child’s fascination with dressing as the opposite gender:
Annie’s Plaid Shirt, by Stacy B. Davids. “Annie loves her plaid shirt and wears it everywhere…She feels weird in dresses. Why can’t her mom understand?” (Age: 3-8 years)
Julián is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love. “All he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Abuela think about how Julián sees himself?” (Age: 4-8 years)
One of a Kind, Like Me, by Lauren Mayeno. “Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%.” (Age: 4-8 years)
Sparkle Boy, by Leslea Newman. “When older boys at the library tease Casey for wearing ‘girl’ things, Jessie realizes that Casey has the right to be himself and wear whatever he wants.” (Age: 5-8 years)
An additional three titles discuss homosexuality, nontraditional family structure and LGBT activism:
And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. “The heartwarming true story of two penguins who create a nontraditional family.” (Age: 2-5 years)
The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, by Daniel Errico. “Knights, dragons, and princesses are the things all good fairy tales are made of, but what happens when the tale has an LGBTQ ending?” (Age: 5-6 years)
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders. “In this deeply moving and empowering true story, young readers will trace the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today’s world.” (Age: 5-8 years)
The final 2 books, It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr and Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash by Monica Brown appear to focus on individuality without overt gender focus.
Having watched a short video about the founders of the organization, I have compassion for the two mothers behind Gender Nation. Having many gay and lesbian friends who struggled in middle and high school, I relate to their desire to show kids that they are not alone. However, as I’ve written about before, I also harbor deep concerns with transgender ideology, which I believe strays far afield of legitimate science. Most importantly, I believe all aspects of human sexuality are beyond the purview of elementary school instruction.
How do you feel about children’s books featuring transgender characters? Are there cases where gender diversity is appropriate in kids books? Share your feedback at email@example.com or on IG @georgiamaehowe.