Saturday, April 6, 2013

Be who you are!

Be who you are! 
by Jennifer Carr 
illus. by Ben Ruhback
Language: English 
Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2010 
40 p. : col. 
ISBN: 9781452087252 
Summary: Never before has a story like this been told. Until now gender diverse/ transgender children did not see themselves or their family stories reflected in their books. Most children's books reinforce traditional gender roles where girls wear pink and boys play with trucks; however, one has to search for the stories where children can simply be themselves, wear what they want, play with what they want and express all aspects of themselves completely. The shift is happening in homes around the world where traditional gender roles are less important. Boys are allowed to enjoy their dolls and girls are encouraged to don superhero costumes now more than ever in history. Be Who You Are! is a natural expression of this change, a perfect opportunity for the reader to peer inside the life of a child who does not identify with their birth gender. This book was designed to open the hearts and minds of all people on the subject of gender diverse children which includes transgender, gender variant, gender fluid, gender queer and any other identification outside of what is considered traditional gender roles. Despite the recent media attention where popular television programs interview transgender children and celebrities embrace their daughters who wear boy clothes, gender non-conforming behavior in kids is still vastly misunderstood. The mystery behind gender diverse behavior presents a specific dilemma for our community. At the most basic level children deserve to be able to express themselves honestly without fear, harm or judgment. Families deserve the right to protect and support their children. These assumptions are basic. However, when a child does not follow traditional gender roles these basic rights are put into question. Be Who You Are! strives to build a bridge of understanding in a world that is only starting to accept the differences among people. Recently the problem of bullying gained attention in the United States. Many young people, especially those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, commit or attempt suicide as a result of being misunderstood and bullied. Unfortunately, the statistics are alarmingly higher than the national average for transgender individuals. The popular It Gets Better series, and those like it, express a message of unity, support and ultimately - hope. As celebrities, individuals, corporations and politicians share their voices in support of LGBT awareness, new allies are made across the world. One more person learns that the differences between people isn't what separates us. Fear separates us. Be Who You Are! shares a message of authenticity, love and inclusion that extends beyond the LGBT community. It gently encourages every reader to express who they are and support others in doing the same. Be Who You Are lets readers experience Hope's gender awareness and expression as a child who knows herself to be a girl despite being born in a boy's body. Hope's family plays a critical role in the story as they come to terms with and accept Hope's decision to transition from being labeled as a boy to living as herself, a girl. Although Be Who You Are tells one child's story, it speaks to all gender non-conforming children who face difficulties at school, with friends and even family who don't understand. Hope creates a language that other children and adults can relate to when discussing her expression. By talking with the people who support her such as her therapist, her parents and other kids who feel the same way, Hope gains the courage to be true to herself every day. Be Who You Are! creates a dialogue where gender identity can be explored, understood and expressed. For families with gender diverse children, Hope's story reinforces that they are not alone. Their stories are worth telling. Their successes are worth celebrating. There is an abundant network of families and resources around the world that will listen, share and help provide every child with the freedom of expression they deserve. As an educational tool, Be Who You Are! is being used in schools, organizations, churches and caregiving facilities to raise awareness of gender diversity of all kinds. Anyone who works with or is around children needs this book. By telling this story allies are being made around the world, not only for gender diverse children, but for every person who strives to live their life authentically. Greater understanding of the differences between people can only lead to a more harmonious existence for all. Fear does not have to stand between people. Fear does not have to lead to bullying or abusive behavior. Fear does not have the power to save lives and families, but knowledge does have the power to dispel fear. 


  1. Thank you so much for writing this blog. We are a two dad family and have purchased many of the books you highlight.