Yesterday, I read Meredith Fenton’s blog post, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Learning about the hate crime against Brandy Martell and the false criminal charges against CeCe Mcdonald inspired me to continue working for the safety and survival of LGBTQI folks in my own community.
And by my community, I mean my favorite little community at St. Mary’s Pre-School where I read picture books once a week for 30 minutes to some of the brightest minds in the world.
Today, I started my story-time session with a book entitled Ella Sarah Gets Dressed. In the story, Ella Sarah picks out a flamboyant outfit with polka dots, stripes, and flowers. Her mother, father, and older sister tease her style for being too silly and urge her to dress more like them. But Ella Sarah refuses to conform. When her similarly dressed friends arrive in their colorful outfits, it becomes clear that Ella Sarah chose exactly the right ensemble.
My pre-school-aged audience loved the book. They rooted for Ella Sarah and unanimously agreed that Ella Sarah should be able to wear whatever she wants.
Right after reading Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, I read 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert. In this book, Bailey dreams about beautiful dresses made of crystals, rainbows, flowers, and windows. However, when awake, Bailey’s mother, father, and brother refuse to hear about these beautiful dreams.
Throughout the book, my puzzled pre-school-aged audience whispered to each other asking if Bailey was a boy or a girl. Since Bailey identifies as a girl, Marcus Ewert appropriately uses female gender pronouns to refer to Bailey. But Bailey’s mother, father, and brother don’t seem to get it. They yell, “You’re a BOY! You shouldn’t be thinking about dresses at all!”
At one point, Bailey’s brother even threatens to kick Bailey for talking such nonsense about dresses. To this, my audience finally abandoned all curiosity about Bailey’s gender and stood up for justice instead. “Poor Bailey!” one cried. “How rude!” “Tch”= what a jerk that brother is!
The book concludes with a happy and cheesy ending, like any modern-day fairy tale.
This is my third year volunteering as a story-time reader at St. Mary’s Pre-School. I read 10,000 Dresses every year and each time, I encounter the same reaction by the students. Confusion about Bailey’s gender, outrage about Bailey’s bully of a brother, and then acceptance of Bailey’s identity and fashion choices. If only it were so easy to change other people’s transphobic tendencies!
Still, these youngin’s give me hope that one day, everyone will realize that policing and judging other’s gender identities and sexualities not only hurts gender queer and transgender folks, but hurts all of us who are forced to fit into narrow boxes of identity.
I have hella respect for all the Ella Sarah’s and Bailey’s out there.