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Tackling Tiny Trannys

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Gay Uncle Brett Berk: I recently wrote an article reviewing queer-themed books for young kids, and while my favorite responses came from bigoted zealots accusing me of helping to usher in Lucifer's reign, I was also delighted to receive notice (and then an actual copy) of a newly published picture book.

10,000   Dresses

Written by Marcus Ewert and illustrated by Rex Ray, the book "10,000 Dresses" follows the clothing-oriented reveries of a kid named Bailey. Each night, Bailey dreams about trying on a different fabulous dress. And each morning, Bailey rises thrilled to share the lovingly imagined details of the gown, and to ask family members for help constructing a replica. Unfortunately, said relations are none-too-willing to engage. In fact, their reaction ranges from disbelief (Mom: "What are you talking about?") to discouragement (Dad: "Don't ever mention dresses again.") to outright disdain (Brother: "That's gross.... Get out of here before I kick you.") Why? Because Bailey is a boy. Or was at least born a biological male, though he doesn't particularly identify as one. (Bailey: "I don't feel like a boy.")

That's right. It's a kids' book about a transgendered tot. Not an easy topic to tackle. But "10K D" succeeds in part by firmly avoiding pedantry or "solutions". No one calls a shrink, tries to "educate" the family, or schedules the kid in for hormone therapy. Rather, Bailey simply befriends an older neighbor girl who indulges his fashion fantasies, and we witness the beginning of what promises to be a fruitful collaboration, whether it lasts for the one frock featured in the story's finale, or ends up going the whole 10,000 yards.

The big idea here for parents and family members is: LAY OFF! Who's it hurting if a boy feels girly, or wears a dress? I've written rather extensively on young kids and gender, and I've concluded that the codified worlds of "male" and "female" are far too restrictive for most kids to fit in comfortably. Thanks to Marcus and Ray -- and Bailey -- for helping to loosen this binding hemline.


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35 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jean Rubinson February 25, 2009, 11:01 AM

Glad to hear about a book for trans kids. I agree with you. Too many people have a mind set about clothing. The teachers at the preschool where I work do not discourage a child in their class (boy) from wearing a dress to school.

Carly McCall February 25, 2009, 1:21 PM

This is BRILIANT. I have transgendered and transsexual friends and acquaintances, this could be a great way to introduce my going-on-4 yr old daughter to these concepts in a way that’s going to resonate with her. Woo hoo!

xyzpdq February 26, 2009, 3:39 AM

When my youngest son was a toddler he carried a teddy bear with him every where we went, loved to walk around the house in my shoes, loved playing dress up with the little girls from the neighborhood, enjoyed playing with any kind of kitchen toys and wear my chapstick. I’m not much of a make up gal but I always figured that if I was he would’ve been into that too. I thought this was adorable but my husband was … well … not delighted by it and thought it was strange because our older son never really did those things at least not to the extent that our youngest did. Luckily, it didn’t take much to convince my hubby that this was just innocent play. I figured that since I had gone from being a SAHM to a working mom that this was my son’s way to feel close to me and my husband agreed. We neither encouraged nor discouraged the behavior but I did make sure to give my son as much quality time as was humanly possible and eventually he grew out of wanting to wear mommies shoes and chapstick and playing dress up switched from the ‘fancy’ items to police & fireman outfits, and, eventually, he stopped carrying around that teddy bear. Since his first day at preschool he’s always had LOTS of friends that were girls. In fact I must confess that there was a time that I worried that he was having a difficult time connecting with boys as friends. That was in Kindergarten but by 2nd grade he had a good balance of friends of both genders. Now he’s in middle school and has a girlfriend (YIKES!). So Why am I sharing this story with you all? I guess to say that just because a boy exhibits behavior that seems to be girly, or visa versa, doesn’t mean that they are necessarily gay or transgender. It could just be part of who they are. My son liked to play with any kitchen type toys and now he loves to cook, he doesn’t wear my shoes or play dress-up anymore but he does pick out shoes & clothes that have a unique style, he no longer carries around a teddy bear but he is rarely without a warm & fuzzy sweatshirt. Let kids be kids and play without gender lines being drawn and they will discover who they are without feeling pressure to be one way or another. And DON”T label your kids. I can only imagine the damage that would’ve been done if my son was shamed out of playing in what most would consider a more typically feminine way or worse yet if I had started touting him as my gay/transgender son just because he liked to play dress up. Labeling kids is a dangerous game because they will believe what we tell them.

xyzpdq February 26, 2009, 3:47 AM

… guess I’m rambling so here’s the rest of my comment………. Let kids be kids and play without gender lines being drawn and they will discover who they are without feeling pressure to be one way or another. And DON”T label your kids. I can only imagine the damage that would’ve been done if my son was shamed out of playing in what most would consider a more typically feminine way or worse yet if I had started touting him as my gay/transgender son just because he liked to play dress up. Labeling kids is a dangerous game because they will believe what we tell them.

tobin March 19, 2009, 11:36 PM

i think we should all play dress-up more often

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