The other night, my 5-year-old son, Waylon, was sitting on the toilet and reading Us Weekly. (Normally I would not confess that our home harbors such toxic tabloid sludge–much less that we expose our child to it–but since it is pivotal to my tale, I will just clarify that it is all my spouse’s fault.)
“Mom!” Waylon shouted from the bathroom. “Come here! You gotta see this cute baby.”
I marched into the bathroom, prepared to deliver my “stop stalling and get in bed” speech. Then my gaze met the baby in question. It was Thomas Beatie’s daughter, Susan. She really is a cute baby.
Amazed that Waylon, a child with a trans parent, had somehow managed to pick out the only trans family in the whole magazine, I sat down on the side of the tub. “Look at her cheeks,” Waylon cooed.
“Waylon,” I said, “did you know that the daddy in that family was born with a woman’s body and he had to change his body to match how he felt inside?”* My son studied the picture, raising the page to within a centimeter from his nose. I assured him that Thomas Beattie looks just like any other man, but Waylon persisted in his examination.
“Hmmm. Let me see….I think he looks–I think he looks French,” pronounced Waylon, who is also the child of Francophile parents.
To say that transgender families are underrepresented in children’s literature would be the understatement of the century. At our house, we create lots of stories with characters that mirror the diversity of the people whom Waylon knows and loves. But sometimes he still complains that the families in books are so different than ours. So I have to admit that–for one brief, bedtime moment–I was actually grateful for Us Weekly and the unexpected opportunity to show Waylon a family with a story like his own.
*(This is the five-year-old version, not necessarily the language I’d use with an adult.)