In honor of Pride month, Scholastic listed a series of books that promote the LGBTQ+ community within middle grade fiction. It is important that members of these communities are valued and represented within our literature, especially Middle Grade Fiction where adolescents are at the cusp of displaying and understanding their identities.
In Children of the Planes, one of the themes I focus on is introducing the non-binary gender spectrum.
Jay, a twelve-year-old male is learning to communicate about his preference for displaying a gender non-conforming lifestyle.
I’m often asked, what does that even mean?
Jay knows he’s a male, but feels he wants to be a girl. He dresses in pink t-shirts and purple sneakers that light up, but his favorite past time is playing Legos. Jay is learning to put words to thoughts he’s felt for a very long time. He’s not entirely sure with what he identifies as of yet, and to spotlight this experience when he is still navigating that aspect would force us all to have to put labels onto his situation that he’s not ready to express.
Within the scope of this novel, Jay is learning to build a support network for when he does figure out his true self. His friend Zane is the first person that he has felt comfortable sharing these feelings with, so we see him in a very raw state within this novel. He gets easily frustrated and builds walls around others because it’s been easier to be alone than trying to be something he knows he’s not. When Zane supports him despite the conflict that ensues, Jay learns that he can be respected and valued even when he doesn’t feel “normal.”
As such, Jay doesn’t “come out” or any of that stereotypical nonsense, but rather we see the seeds being sown for him to embrace himself no matter what that is.