Jamie is Jamie

Someone who follows GenderJabber.org and knows that I collect (and read to my kids) gender-inclusive children’s books suggested I check out Jamie is Jamie, written by Afsaneh Moradian and illustrated by Maria Bogade. It’s a quick and simple read probably best for 2-4 year olds, though possibly older kids. The illustrations are colorful and engaging and depict a racially-mixed group of kids. The story is simple and to the point. The story talks about Jamie, who is new to the school. All the kids there are playing with gender stereotypical toys. Jamie engages each of them with their play and demonstrates skill with cars, dance, babies, and action figure play. After Jamie goes home, there is some minor discussion about Jamie’s gender. The story is resolved with all the kids returning to school and playing together in a more integrated way - “playing exactly what they wanted to play.”

The book reminds me of one of my favorite books, X: A Fabulous Children’s Story by Lois Gould. I grew up on this book -- in the 70s. It’s still really relevant. Sadly. (Full text is here, though it's worth finding a copy for the illustrations.)

To be honest, upon my first read I was left feeling like I wanted more. Or rather - I wanted less. I yearn for a world where gender non-conforming kids are incidental characters in a book, not the point. Where books like Jamie is Jamie and X are relics. But then I stepped back. As a connoisseur of LGBQ/T kids books, and someone who is admittedly pretty far on the end of a spectrum of beliefs and practices about the expansiveness of gender, I am not the target audience for this book. My kids are not the target audience. But we are in a minority.

The vast majority of parents and kids need a book like this. It’s simple. It has a message. And it can be used to refute the gender policing that young children can start to recite upon hearing it from people around them.

Furthermore, there aren’t enough books about gender expansive kids. There are lots of books about strong cisgender girls doing adventurous things. There are a handful about trans kids (girls mostly), though they usually emphasize an identity with binary gender as in I am Jazz. There are some about (presumably cisgender) boys who wear dresses (e.g. Morris Mickelwhite and the Tangerine Dress and One of a Kind, Like Me//Unico Como Yo). The thing I like about Jamie is Jamie is that Jamie is kind of *not* the point -- the other kids are. Upon further reflection, Jamie is Jamie provides an educational moment for parents, kids, and educators to step back from binary gender norms to encourage “the other kids” to be more expansive and inclusive in their own notions of gender in order to welcome all kids. This is one of my key take homes, always -- that we don’t need to change the kids who are gender non-conforming, gender expansive, or transgender, we need to change the world around them.

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