Windy City Media Group Frontpage News Home
CELEBRATING 29+ YEARS OF Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender NEWS

Search Gay News Articles
Advanced Search
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-03-25
Download Issue
  News Index   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds     AIDS @ 32       Marriage
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime

NUNN ON ONE: TELEVISION Taryn Manning dishes on new music, 'Orange Is the New Black' NUNN ON ONE: TELEVISION
Taryn Manning
dishes on new music,
'Orange Is the New Black'
Taryn Manning is a multitalented machine. From her breakout role in the ...

Browse Gay News Index   Browse Gay News Archives
  Windy City Times

Jennifer Carr tells kids to 'Be Who You Are'
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Chicago-based children's author, Jennifer Carr, didn't publish her first book in hopes of becoming famous. (That thought actually terrifies her.) She started publishing because she wanted to give her kids something that many families take for granted- a storybook that reflects them.

Carr is the mother of a transgender 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, and her first book Be Who You Are (AuthorHouse, 2010, Illustrated by Ben Rumback), is an unprecedented addition to children's literature for more reason than one.

Be Who You Are is a 32-page picture and story book about a child born male who grows up feeling more like a girl. When she tells her parents this, they say "be who you are." That mantra is repeated throughout the book as Nick transitions towards girlhood- picking out dresses, growing her hair, and changing her name to "Hope."

The book is first of its kind: a storybook about a family that embraces a transgender child.

It's a story that Jennifer Carr has lived over the last three years, ever since her oldest child broke down after a shopping trip and confessed that she felt like a girl inside.

Carr described that moment as an "internal tsunami." However, she didn't let on at the time. "I told her 'you have been given a boy's body, but you can feel any way you want to on the inside,'" Carr said. "We didn't think like 'oh, she's transgender.'"

Carr, who uses a pseudonym to protect her family, said she never wanted to speak for her kids. She didn't exactly understand the meaning of her child's confession, who she refers to as "Hope" (the name of the character in her book), but she didn't discourage her, either. Carr helped Hope pick out dresses and let her wear pink. "I just said 'be who you are,'" Carr said.

In time, Carr and Hope would learn that Hope was transgender. Hope asked Carr to find her other kids who felt the same way. Carr promised she would. She took Hope to counseling and did extensive research to find her transgender playmates, even flying her family to the Gender Spectrum Family Conference, an annual gathering for gender-variant children and their parents.

Hope's transition had its ups and downs. While her community was growing, Carr was also finding it difficult to advocate for her daughter. She sent Hope to school presenting as a girl, but she had to fight the school system to do it. Their lives were filled with new questions and challenges: How do you get a passport for a transgender child? How do you deal with doctor's visits?

However, perhaps the most unexpected question Carr had to tackle came from her kids during story time at home. Hope and her brother asked for a book with a transgender kid in it. Carr didn't know of any.

Research led Carr to a copy of 10,000 Dresses, Marcus Ewert's award-winning storybook about a transgender child named Bailey. In the story, Bailey wants to wear dresses but is discouraged by family members who say that Bailey is a boy and boys don't wear dresses. Bailey finally finds a friend in an older girl who, despite not knowing Bailey, invites Bailey to come make dresses with her.

Reviews for 10,000 Dresses are overwhelmingly positive, including a 2009 review in Windy City Times. But Carr and her kids disliked the book. Carr's son asked why Bailey's family rejected her just because she was trans. Her daughter said she, "didn't like Bailey's choices" to go play with an older stranger.

Carr decided that if she was going to give her kids the kind of book they needed, she would have to write it herself.

"It was born out of a need to see something that looked like us," Carr said.

Be Who You Are, a fictionalized account of Hope's transition, is the first children's book with a transgender character who transitions with the love and support of family and community. In transgender circles, that kind of narrative is ground-breaking. The lesson is as applicable to young people as it their parents.

Other parents tell Carr that she had it easy, that it was in her nature to accept that she had a transgender child, while others struggle for years to come to terms with that reality. Carr said that's just not true.

"When my daughter was going to transition, I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and there was a tornado in front of me," said Carr.

After everything that Hope had revealed to Carr about wanting girls shoes, about liking pink and dresses, about feeling more like a girl inside than a boy, Carr gave hope a crew cut the following Spring. It was a terrible mistake, Carr said, choking up as she described how she spent the summer gluing bows to Hope's too-short hair. It was before she realized that Hope's tendencies towards girl things might actually mean she was a girl.

She knew that Hope's transition would change their family, and she didn't know how to support her child. Older transgender people in Chicago had resources through LGBTQ organizations like Center on Halsted and Howard Brown Health Center. Carr had tried both early on when she and Hope needed answers, but neither served children so young, leaving Carr feeling adrift and alone in her search to find support for Hope.

However, Carr's failure to pinpoint what was happening to Hope early on can hardly discount the obvious: When it comes to parenting a transgender child, Carr is light-years ahead of the curve.

As with transgender people generally, few statistics exist to shed light on the experiences of transgender children. But a multitude of recent studies that suggest that trans youth experience homelessness in staggering numbers, supports a widely-held belief that many parents disown their children after they come out as transgender. A 2011 survey from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force noted that double the number of transgender respondents reported homelessness currently in comparison to the general population.

Carr represents a small but growing number of parents who are not only embracing gender-diverse children, but are fighting for them in schools, doctors' offices, and in the media. For Carr, going public with Hope's story has not been easy.

"I had people saying wolves should raise my children instead of me," Carr said.

Many people in Carr's own family have renounced her, claiming she is ruining Hope's life by letting her live as a girl. Other parents have accused Carr of child abuse for the same reason. Carr worries for her safety and the safety of her children because she fears that transphobic people will retaliate against her. It's why she uses a pseudonym in public and why it has taken her months to step into the spotlight with Be Who You Are.

"I think the violence is a reality," said Carr, speaking generally of the experiences of many trans people in the United States. That threat is part of what motivates her. If she remains silent, she said, nothing will change. Hope will grow up in a world that punishes gender-variance.

It's a fine line between protecting Hope now and fighting for her future, a line that Carr walks uneasily as her work gains publicity. Carr's book is drawing a lot of attention these days, and she has two more trans-themed books in the works: one on bullying and another on puberty.

Carr said she knows that Hope might grow up and decide she isn't a girl after all, or that the name she chose is not the one she will want to keep. Carr is open to both possibilities. But for now, Carr said, Hope is being who she is. "She looks more like her than she ever has."

Jennifer Carr will be at the Hinsdale, Ill., PFLAG meeting Sunday, May 1, at the Unitarian Church, 11 W. Maple. Email .

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.

BOOKS Chelsey Clammer gets personal with 'BodyHome' 2015-03-25
BOOKS 'Love Together' looks at longtime gay couples 2015-02-17
BOOKS Leslea Newman gets personal with 'I Carry My Mother' 2015-02-04
BOOKS 'Boystown' moves from online to print 2015-01-27
Mainstream books: Best of 2014 2014-12-30
BOOKS The editors of Black Gay Genius on Joseph Beam 2014-12-10
Holiday gift guide to new LGBTQ-inclusive kids' books 2014-12-02
BOOKS Talking with iconic author Felice Picano 2014-11-26
BOOKS Hiram Crespo tends an 'Epicurean Garden' 2014-09-09
BOOKS Talking with queer labor activist Miriam Frank 2014-09-03
BOOKS Starting from Here; Further Adventures Sissy Van Dyke 2014-09-03
Street being named for Women & Children First Bookstore 2014-08-28
BOOKS Sociologist discusses the end of the 'Gayborhood' 2014-08-19
Former bookstore owners reflect on local legacy 2014-08-13
Women & Children bookstore sold 2014-07-16
'Chicago Independent Bookstore Day' on July 12 2014-07-02
BOOKS Laura Erickson-Schroth's work looks at the trans* self 2014-06-25
Windy City Times books: Marriage equality, Vernita Gray, LGBT cinema 2014-06-13
WCT books: Marriage equality, Vernita Gray, LGBT cinema 2014-06-11
WCT books: Marriage equality, Vernita Gray, LGBT cinema 2014-06-11
BOOKS The End of Billy Knight 2014-06-03
Pride books: Vernita Gray, Marriage Equality, Knight Movies 2014-05-15
New Evanston independent bookstore to open in June 2014-04-15
BOOKS Man talks about being gay in the Colombian army 2014-04-01
Women & Children First plans April author events 2014-03-30
Women & Children First Bookstore hosts Jimmy Carter book signing 2014-03-27
BOOKS Jackie Collins: True 'Confessions' 2014-03-12
Women & Children First bookstore March events, honor 2014-02-27
Tom and Lorenzo: Always in fashion 2014-02-19
Jimmy Carter coming to Women & Children First Books 2014-02-18
BOOKS Political powerhouse Rebecca Sive on the GOP, women's rights 2014-01-29
Borich, Baim books on ALA Over the Rainbow list 2014-01-28
BOOKS HIV/AIDS activist Sean Strub talks 'Body Counts' 2014-01-15
A Queer Agenda: A Year for the History Books 2013-12-18
Gaga's fans make voices heard in 'Heal This Way' 2013-12-10
Gerber/Hart to re-open, promises transparency 2013-12-05
Chicago native travels through 'Body Geographic' 2013-11-20
Jim Elledge discusses late gay artist Henry Darger 2013-11-13
BOOKS: Reinventing You 2013-11-13
BOYS anthology gives voice to gay, queer and trans men 2013-11-12

Copyright © 2015 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
the online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.





ALMA names recipients of Young Latino Leaders for Creating Change scholarship
NUNN ON ONE: TELEVISION Taryn Manning dishes on new music, 'Orange Is the New Black'
Ald. Emma Mitts videotaped making anti-LGBT comments
New BYC location among Howard Brown meeting announcements
Accepting HIV status is 'strength' for Chicago athlete
Windy City Times Current DownloadNightspots Current DownloadQueercast Current Download
Windy City Media Group BlogsJoin Our Email List!Donate Now

  News Index   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds     AIDS @ 32       Marriage
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.