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How this book is helping trans children discover their identity

How this book is helping trans children discover their identity

This trans childrens book is helping young people work out their identity

I never set out to become a writer, let alone a chosen auntie to so many different children. Growing up transgender meant internalizing that I was defective from a much earlier age.

Long ago, the world convinced me that I was dangerous, unsafe, and worthless—to everyone. Because of my broken childhood, I never believed in my right to use my creative voice for anything, not until relatively recently.

Not until Pearl.

In 2015, my whole life changed when I accidentally became a caregiver to the sweetest six-year-old.

At the time, I was just a housemate, an awkward pink-haired girl living with a queer family of four in the Pacific Northwest. Seemingly out of nowhere, their youngest child began knocking on my door in the morning.

Pearl wanted help with getting ready for school, and the parents were eager to have another hand in the process. As anxious as I was about working with children, I reluctantly agreed.

Two months later, the child we thought was a boy came out to us as a girl.

Life hadn’t got any easier since I’d grown up

I’d like to say that people are much kinder to gender nonconforming kids these days, but I can’t. Even in our progressive hometown, Pearl was constantly bullied at school for “pretending” to be a girl.

Bathroom access became an anxiety-ridden nightmare. Unsupportive adults took every opportunity to remind her, and us, that six-year-olds can’t know who they “really are.” Nobody thought this was Pearl’s choice at all.

Her other parents, the half of Pearl’s family I didn’t live with, refused to accept their child’s transition and went to disturbing lengths to disrupt it.

Not only did they refuse to recognize her chosen name, but they also relentlessly told her this was our fault—that we (her queer family) made her become ‘a trans’ because we wouldn’t love her otherwise. But week after week, she persisted.

And throughout all of this, Pearl relied on me as her emotional support system to stay alive.

Page from trans children book The Girl from the Stars is helping young people work out their identity

I see so much of me in Pearl

I still wonder why Pearl chose me as her tree to lean on during the impossible times.

Her queer mamas were always such a strong source of endless love and support. What made me so different than them?

But deep down, I knew the answer. I already was the answer.

The truth was, thirty years ago, I was Pearl. I was that same anxious, sweet-but-strange six-year-old child who desperately wanted to be free, without worrying about the consequences of breaking the gender binary.

This unique experience provided me with tools that nobody else could give Pearl while she was figuring it all out.

So, of course, Pearl chose me. She knew long before I did that I would be in it for her, that I always would be, for the rest of my life.

Pearl goes to the stars and beyond

During that initial month of caretaking, Pearl started asking me to tuck her in at night. Her mamas thought it was a good thing, so I went along with it.

Pearl regularly asked me to read to her, something to help her sad, anxious mind fall asleep. She struggled so much back then, and I felt responsible in making her feel safe as she drifted off to dreamland.

One evening, on a whim, I decided to read a story of my own. It was my first story ever, actually—a children’s book written for trans girls by a trans woman, but I never told Pearl that.

The Girl from the Stars is about a human-appearing girl named Hailey who wished more than anything to be seen for the star that she was on the inside.

Needless to say, Pearl was HOOKED.

I don’t think I even finished reading it that first night. She had fallen fast asleep. But that next morning when I woke up, she asked me to tell it all over again.

Six weeks later, she came out as a girl. And I ended up reading that story to her, every night, for nine months straight. To this day, I still do.

Page from trans children book The Girl from the Stars is helping young people work out their identity

The trans sisterhood that binds us together

Since becoming Pearl’s auntie, everything I do is for her. I want to build a new world for gender nonconforming children where they are free to be whoever they are, without the fear or shame that I managed to survive.

I want all of my assigned-male-at-birth (AMAB) sisters to know deep down, whenever it’s their time, that they have the same right to be loved, wanted, and cared for—just like everyone else.

There will be a time when Pearl will be finally free to be whoever she wants to be, and I hope at that point she’ll step onto a planet that wants her to live and thrive as her authentic self.

These days, I’m currently working with a collective press to publish The Resilience Anthology, the largest literary collection of transgender women and AMAB non-binary writers.

It is my hope that, one day, Pearl will find herself in these stories that I am leaving her here. Because if I’ve learned nothing else from my chosen niece, it’s that telling our stories saves lives.

Follow Amy Heart’s Kickstarter for The Resilience Anthology.

 

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