i have a 5 year old daughter who identifies as both boy and girl, depending on the situation and her mood. so i've been searching for books that can help her put language to her feelings and experiences. it seems that most books out there about gender nonconformity are about teaching kids that it's okay for boys to like sparkly, pretty things, but i have found zero books out there about girls who identify as boys -- so i was excited when i heard about "when kathy is keith."
i was disappointed in this book, however -- it was just too negative! i'm not saying that transgender kids don't experience challenges or negativity, but for example:
"her friends make fun of her."
"her teacher tells kathy she is being silly."
"[his parents] also let keith wear boy's clothes at home."
first off, his REAL friends wouldn't make fun of him, so i disagree with that language. it should have said "some of her classmates make fun of her," NOT "her FRIENDS make fun of her." and having kathy's teacher say that she is silly means that teacher is going to need some serious diversity training -- are there REALLY teachers out there like this? shouldn't we be teaching our kids that they can confide in their teachers, that they are safe and supportive people to talk to? lastly, why would the parents only let him be keith at home? why not let him be keith all the time?
maybe i'm living in a fantasy world, where my 5 year old daughter has been sheltered from negative reactions to the way she dresses and acts. but i live in NORTH TEXAS, and if texans in my town can be accommodating (and in many cases downright supportive), i guess i don't understand why this book didn't include a more positive experience of a little girl who wants to be a little boy.
i don't think i'll be reading this book to my daughter. when and if she ever experiences bullying over this, there seems to be no sense to me in introducing her to the negative side of her gender creativity. i feel like a book like this would actually only make her feel confused about why it's "weird" or "embarrassing" to identify as both boy and girl.
not to say that this book doesn't have any redeeming qualities to it -- i'm sure there are many boys and girls out there who unfortunately haven't had the positive experiences that my daughter has had regarding her nonconformity. but given that her experiences have been overwhelmingly positive in our community, i see no reason to introduce her to the negative and confusing side of being gender creative.
i look forward to the book about kathy being keith, and everyone loving and supporting her for expressing herself, without all the scenes of bullying or denial.