Transgender and Nonbinary Teens Share Their Stories in New Book Series

Gia Parr has always dreamed of returning to her elementary school one day to help its students and staff understand who transgender people are.

And, she said, to “show the younger kids coming out that their lives are great!”

Ms. Parr, 17, is planning to visit her former school to read from her book, “A Kids Book About Being Transgender,” which was based on her own story of transitioning in middle school and embracing her identity as a transgender teen.

The book is part of a forthcoming collection of books that aim to start and help conversations for children, their parents and caregivers about complex and important topics related to being transgender or nonbinary.

The books join a growing list of works by trans and gender nonconforming authors who, as lawmakers in several states push for restrictions on transgender rights, hope to make the world less lonely for their peers.

The GenderCool Project, a national online campaign that highlights positive stories about transgender and nonbinary young people, has partnered with the publisher A Kids Book About, to publish three books by four teenagers that bring clarity about their community while adding to the national conversation.

“They are telling stories of who they are,” said Jen Grosshandler, a founder of the project, which began in 2018. She said she was inspired to start the nonprofit by her daughter, Chazzie, 14, who was assigned male at birth and who, at 11, shared her story on the “Today” show.

“They are humanizing this conversation which is so easy and so positive and it’s so relatable,” Ms. Grosshandler said.

Gearah Goldstein, another founder of the group and a transgender woman, said stories about young transgender and nonbinary people tend to focus on bullying, violence or suicide rates. The group is trying to change that.

“Everything was always so dark,” said Ms. Goldstein, an inclusion and diversity consultant. “These kids are thriving and no one is telling their stories.”

The announcement of the books comes against a backdrop of anti-trans sentiment and legislation in states including South Dakota, Arkansas, Arizona and Mississippi. In some states, the issue has led to conflict between Republican lawmakers pushing bills and Republican governors calling for changes to them.

In Arkansas this month, after Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill that would have made it illegal for transgender minors to receive gender-affirming medication or surgery, the Republican-led State Legislature overrode his decision. A few weeks later, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona vetoed legislation that would have restricted education about sexual orientation and gender identity.

One gender studies expert said the books’ arrival is timely.

“As legislators work on passing laws that attempt to police and punish trans kids, such as the recent spate of scrutiny around trans kids’ participation in sports, it’s crucial that trans kids themselves have a platform,” said Jason Ruiz, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame.

“These books provide one,” he said. “Social media and various public relations campaigns play parts, too, but longer form books will allow them to go more deeply and hopefully beyond just tolerance.”

He added that “there’s a lot of potential in listening to trans kids tell their own stories.”

In her book, Ms. Parr described coming out as transgender before starting the eighth grade. She and her parents first told teachers and faculty and then sent a letter to the rest of the school.

“I got so many text messages from my friends saying, ‘I love you for who you are.’ That meant everything to me,” Ms. Parr recalled. “I could finally be myself for what felt like was the first time.”

She described herself now as a typical high school senior: an honors student who plays field hockey and attends football games.

She said she hoped readers could “take away what the message of support can do for a person.”

Hunter Chinn-Raicht, 15, who wrote “A Kids Book About Being Non-Binary,” said in an interview that they first heard the word nonbinary in seventh grade, adding, “I grew up not having the language to describe exactly how I was feeling.”

By the beginning of the next school year, the student began using they/them pronouns, which prompted questions about gender identity from fellow classmates.

“By the end of the year, everyone including the teachers were calling me by my correct pronoun,” they said. Spanish teachers were among those who helped, encouraging the 10th grader to look up their pronouns in Spanish which included the use of “elle” as a gender-neutral alternative to “el” and “ella.”

“I am able to express myself outside of the pink-and-blue stereotype,” Chinn-Raicht said. “I am gray, white and all the colors mashed up into one!”

The book was motivated, they said, by a desire to give “so many kids a positive look at what their future can look like.”

Glaad, the L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy organization, applauded the series, which is set to be released in June, during Pride month.

“It takes courage to come out with your truth in defiance of intolerance,” said a spokeswoman, Serena Sonoma. “These new books should be a further reminder to trans youth that being trans is beautiful.”

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