Saturday, March 14, 2009
At last a children's book with a transyouth character
It’s called 10,000 Dresses and is written and illustrated by Marcus Ewert and Rex Ray respectively. I have not read it yet but I know that it has been getting rave reviews. Below is how one site, Sevenstories.com, describes it:
Every night, Bailey dreams about magical dresses: dresses made of crystals and rainbows, dresses made of flowers, dresses made of windows. . . . Unfortunately, when Bailey's awake, no one wants to hear about these beautiful dreams. Quite the contrary. "You're a BOY!" Mother and Father tell Bailey. "You shouldn’t be thinking about dresses at all." Then Bailey meets Laurel, an older girl who is touched and inspired by Bailey’s imagination and courage. In friendship, the two of them begin making dresses together. And Bailey’s dreams come true!
This gorgeous picture book—a modern fairy tale about becoming the person you feel you are inside—will delight people of all ages.
I already checked local bookstores here and predictably, they don’t have it yet. I hope that 10,000 Dresses gets distributed in the Philippines though for I cannot stress enough the importance of having a book such as this around. It not only affirms the existence of gender diversity in childhood but also gives it a face and voice. Bailey is the youth embodiment of the “gender that dare not speak its name.”
Growing up, people around me always pointed out how different I was from the other boys. I was soft, feminine and preferred “girly” things. They would whisper about me or the way I acted and every time they had a chance would tell me, one way or another, that I must change, must try to conform or there would be consequences. Sometimes I would just shrug these comments off. Sometimes they would really get to me. I lost count of the many times I would hide in my room and cry over the things that people said. One way I learned to cope was by burying myself in books.
We’ve always been a reading family thanks to my college-educated parents. I read my first novel when I was 12 which was itself a culmination of reading various prose and poetry since I learned how to read when I was 6. I’ve never stopped reading from then on. Reading to me started out as a form of therapy, an escape to the world of words. When the real world got too much to bear, I would pick up a book, cuddle up in bed, stay in and read till it was time to get back again to the business of attending school, doing house chores, participating in family activities, etc. But what began as a coping mechanism ended up becoming a pleasurable hobby.
I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Always, however, I would get a feeling that something was missing. In college, a literature teacher who was openly gay hit the nail on the head when he said, “Much of the literature we grew up reading was not meant for an LGBT audience” or something to that effect. And it really made sense!
I never saw someone like me in any of the things I read. In fact the first time I encountered a trans character in a novel was when I read Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series. I was already 19 then I think. When I did, I didn’t think that it was too late though. On the contrary, I thought exactly the same thing when I heard about 10,000 Dresses: “At last!”
It is my wish that this little gem of a book helps parents of gender non-conforming children look at their own kids with kinder, more compassionate eyes. More importantly, I hope that this book will end up in the hands of those same gender non-conforming kids so that they will see themselves, feel right and have hope.