Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?" - Book review

Despite its title, this book is more about 'gender identity' than about gender diversity. Ideally the publishers should have called it "Can I Tell You About Gender Identity Disorder?" or "Can I Tell You About Transgenderism?" But presumably they preferred the title "Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?" because support for 'diversity' is widely regarded as a good and positive thing.

The author, CJ Atkinson, is described on the back cover as "a queer activist, academic and poet." Atkinson, like the 12 year old protagonist Kit, is a transgender person.

The author's queer activism is evident throughout. For instance, messages like "there is no such thing in the world as not being trans enough," on page 13 may well give children the impression that they should aspire to be as 'trans' as they can be. As a result, so called "cisgender" children might feel they're somehow missing out.

Readers are quickly introduced to the concepts and jargon of transgenderism:

"When I was born, the doctors told my mum and dad that they had a baby girl, and so for the first few years of my life that's how my parents raised me. This is called being assigned female at birth."

Kit describes how he disliked stereotypical girly things from an early age, and at the age of three told his mother he wanted to be a boy. He goes on to discuss -

gender identity
feeling of being 'born in the wrong body'
sexual orientation
hormone blockers, hormones
gender expression
gender dysphoria

Kit has a few friends who, it seems, are all 'transgender' in one way or another. Amy, one of Kit's best friends, is transitioning from male to female. Tobi is considering having top surgery "so they don't have breasts." Sam is non-binary and so also prefers non-gender specific pronouns 'they' and 'them.' Another friend, Leigh, is gender fluid and likes people to use words such as xe, zir, xie, and ze.

Rather than clarifying things, this book is likely to add to the confusion about what is, after all, quite a difficult topic to grasp.

The difference between 'gender' and 'sex' is unclear, even, it seems, to the book's author. So, for example, we hear about the gender 'assigned' at birth. But on page 32, when Kit talks about his dog, Pickle, he says he finds it "really funny" that people think Pickle is a girl. Kit says: "When I tell them he's a boy, they apologise and get his pronoun right." Does Kit know the 'gender identity' of Pickle, or is he instead referring to Pickle's biological sex - ie male?

The book concludes with a section called "How other people can help," and finally a brief glossary which defines some of the trans activist jargon:-

(C)AFAB, for instance, means "(Coercively) Assigned female at birth."

The book is illustrated with a few black and white outline drawings which add little or nothing to the text, but do make it look slightly more child-friendly.

Newsround Blog rating (1 out of 5)

No comments: