CHICAGO, Ill. — At a time when legislation is being written that affects people who are transgender or nonbinary, one who doesn’t identify exclusively with any gender, young influencers are sharing their own stories.
A series of books written by teenagers aims to help foster understanding and clarity about what it means to come out as a young person and thrive.
Gia Parr, 17, came out as transgender three years.
“I've always known I was a girl since I was two,” she said. “I just didn't really have the words for it.”
Now a high school senior, the teen has found those words and put them to paper as one of the co-authors of "A Kids Book About Being Transgender."
“The word ‘transgender,’ I feel like it can be such an adult term and it can sound so scary,” said Parr. “And to put it in words meant for kids and to be able to educate them is so important.”
The books are being released as part of global storytelling campaign led by 18 young people like Parr from around the country.
“Most people in our country tell us they've never met anyone who identifies as transgender or nonbinary,” said Jen Grosshandler, the co-founder of the GenderCool Project.
The nonprofit advocacy group is collaborating on the campaign with the publishing company A Kids Book About.
“It's going to help people really see this incredible growing community for the beauty and positivity of who they are,” said Grosshandler.
The youth-led GenderCool movement was inspired by Grosshandler’s own family. Her youngest child, Chazzie, proudly identifies as transgender.
“I find it so important as just a 14-year-old for someone to accept me for the way I am and who I am,” said Chazzie Grosshandler.
The series of books share personal stories about being transgender – but also nonbinary. The third book in the series tackles inclusivity.
“Our books, they fundamentally work as conversation starters, not conversations enders,” said Jelani Memory, the founder of A Kids Book About.
“These young people, they want to be seen as individuals, as people, as fine and OK the way they are, that they are happy, that they're healthy, that they're whole. And that's really true about all of our books,” said Memory.
For teens like Chazzie, she hopes the positivity of this storytelling series will be eye-opening for people of all ages.
“It just, it means a lot to me,” said Grosshandler. “And I know there's so many people in the world who aren't accepted, and I just hope that they know that they are loved for who they are.”
Parr says her dream is to return to her elementary school to read her book and support others.
“It would have been really important for a student like me sitting wondering ‘why am I like this or who am I? Why do I feel so quote unquote, different from my peers?’ To know that they are in good hands,” she said.
All three books are already available for pre-order and expected to hit bookshelves in June – just in time for pride month.