Childrens behavior

Children’s book “Calvin” gives transgender youth a superhero

“This book is a love letter to the support networks that a trans child can have,” said Vanessa Ford. “We just wanted the opportunity to show how radiant and beautiful transgender youth are when supported by everything around them. “

The book was inspired by the Fords’ experience with their youngest child, Ellie, who revealed to them that they were transgender at the age of 4 in 2015. Three years later, the couple, who live on the Rive-Nord, sat with Vanessa’s parents. ‘New Hampshire and started typing what became “Calvin”.

“In those early years we were looking for books, picture books, resources, to support this trip and have an opportunity for Ellie to see herself in a book, and we didn’t see a lot of books there. -low, ”said Vanessa, who noted a particular lack of books highlighting trans boys or trans children of color.

In the book, Calvin is concerned about the what ifs: what if his family didn’t believe him when he got out? What if his classmates didn’t use his favorite pronouns?

“The book itself really focuses on Calvin’s thoughts and internal stressors,” JR said. “We didn’t necessarily want to focus on the bullying or any kind of real trauma we’ve seen trans people and trans children go through.”

A social transition – like pronoun and name changes – is the typical first course of action for children who express that they are transgender, according to the Trevor project. Research has shown that transgender and non-binary children able to make a social transition have levels of self-esteem and depression similar to those of cisgender children, the Trevor Project reported. Also, the more the name a transgender child chooses is used in many contexts, the less likely they are to exhibit suicidal thoughts or behavior.

“You’re really looking to make sure your internal world matches the way people view you on the outside,” Vanessa said.

This deep support is evident throughout the pages of “Calvin”. Calvin’s father assures him that he and his mother “love you if you’re a girl, a boy, neither, or both”. Calvin’s grandfather gives him a haircut, the first time the young boy has felt like he’s seen in the mirror. When he arrives on his first day of school, his chosen name is plastered on his locker.

The Ford family (left to right: JR, Ellie, Ronnie and Vanessa) holding a copy of “Calvin” for the first time.Courtesy of Vanessa Ford

Kayla Harren’s illustrations are full of bright, vivid pastels, showing a cheerful Calvin and a diverse group of classmates.

“Seeing this intergenerational support and the way our illustrator brought it to life in a way we hadn’t even imagined is so beautiful,” Vanessa said. “She brought ‘Calvin’ to life.”

It was important, the Fords said, to create an intentional and inclusive book. For example, the definition of transgender used in the book (“other people think you’re the same gender, but inside you know you’re a different one”) was meant to apply to non-binary children. and gender nonconforming – Ellie uses them now. /the pronouns. Plus, Calvin, like Ellie, is biracial.

“We wanted to be determined to make sure that we are only developing this trope or this monolith of what you typically see,” JR said. “Trans children come in different shapes and sizes. “

The Fords have been national transgender rights activists for years and were founding members of the National Parents Council for Transgender Equality Human Rights Campaign. They mixed Ellie’s experiences with anecdotes from families with transgender children across the country that they met through their activism to build “Calvin”.

“Research has been integrated into our experience … [from] those in the community who have supported us have helped us know what to put in this book, ”said Vanessa. “We worked with community members, trans seniors and others, to make sure we got it right. “

The Fords said Ellie initially feared their parents would write a book inspired by their experience. They have since come and asked to be the first person to hold the book, copies of which they brought to school to share with their teachers.

“They are also very convinced that this is not a book about them,” Vanessa said. “They see themselves in the book, just as we hope others will see themselves in the book.”

The couple will host a launch party at Beverly’s Copper dog books November 9. They then plan to refocus on advocacy efforts, namely passing the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity. gender. The book’s release coincides with Transgender Awareness Week, which is November 13-19.

“This book comes at a time that will hopefully get people to see that trans kids are just like any other kid – that they are special and unique and beautiful and radiant and all of these amazing things,” he said. Vanessa said. “Just like Calvin is.”


Dana Gerber can be reached at [email protected]


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