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.
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.
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|