Welcome to the 21st century, ladies and gentlemen … I mean, human beings. We have Call Me Tree, a children’s book without gender specific pronouns. And it's fantastic.
This week the Huffington Post interviewed author Maya Christina Gonzalez about her most recent book in her trilogy of children's books. Call Me Tree tells the story, in Spanish and English, of a child growing up with the imagery of a budding tree. Gonzales told the Huffington Post that it's the book she would have wanted as a little kid. Gonzalez is queer and said when she was growing up, she wanted books she could relate to. There weren’t any.
“I realized that not seeing any queer or Chicana representation in children’s books or any media for that matter, left me feeling invisible and irrelevant,” said Gonzalez. So she decided to write a book that would include all children, those who were gendered and those who didn't yet feel assigned.
“Our culture has a powerful trend toward the boy-girl gender binary and conformity comes into play from a child’s earliest possible moment ... Call Me Tree also opens up the possibility that it’s ok not to know the gender of a child. No matter what their gender identity may be, what is valuable is that they feel free, strong, a sense of belonging and appreciative of difference and sameness in themselves and others.”
But those gender assumptions prove tough to beat. Gonzalez added that even though her book is written purposefully without gender pronouns, it still is assigned. Because the protagonist of her story has short hair and wears overalls, her reviewers often decide it's a boy. When actually, Gonzales imagined the main character to be an assigned girl.
“Many of us assume a child with short hair, dressed in a t-shirt and pants is a cisgender boy. What does an assumption like that fully communicate? About gender requirements? fitting in? living up to expectations? being accepted? Who does it leave out and what is the impact of being excluded?”
Image: Cincinnati Book Publishing