Archive for January 15th, 2020

by Sam Juliano

In last year’s phantasmagorical picture book Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love the author-artist spoke compellingly for the acceptance of diversity in our culture and the common understanding that children may be governed by inward hankerings, which in turn will lead to a freedom of expression, one that shouldn’t be judged and ridiculed.  The titular character is a daring and imaginative boy who is hellbent on beating to his own drum.  He recalls the protagonist in the 2014 release Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchio and Isabelle Malenfant, which features a little boy with comparable verve and commitment. Morris loves wearing the tangerine dress in his classroom’s dress-up center.  Some will conclude Julian is effeminate while others will liken his flight of fancy as an acute desire to be perceived a someone other than himself.  The 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie The Thirteenth Year presents Cody Griffin, a boy adopted by a mermaid mother, who finds himself undergoing a metamorphosis. A transgender man, Kyle Lukoff authored When Aidan Became a Brother in 2019, and this colorful bonanza of a picture book forges a blissful wedding between acceptance and love and finally a repudiation of suppression as one find’s their true self.

Lukoff’s accomplice in this soulful and effervescent story is the exceptionally talented Kaylani Juanita  whose digitally negotiated pastel coloring usher in gender depictions with sensitivity and warmth from the cover where Aidan, sporting a rainbow shirt to the final tapestry when the family celebrates their new arrival in a backyard party.  There is a carnival aspect to the book, what with streamers, strings of lights, clothes and flowers and plants in abundant display.  In bringing the author’s vision of recognition and consent that rightly aims to eliminate any lingering bias against those who discover they are living in the wrong body When Aidan Became a Brother moves forward with confidence and certainty, never once in its thirty pages expressing the slightest notion of regret or dysfunction, never  intimating that Aidan is different from his peers, never exhibiting anything but the unwavering support of parents who understand and love their child unreservedly, and indeed profess no preference of gender.  I’d go as far as to say that When Aidan Became a Brother, devoid of even a trace of pathos, fosters familial love as the great equalizer in situation where being different is seen as some sort of obstacle more resonantly that any picture on the subject that has preceded it.  The fact that Lukoff who in an afterward asserts “When I was born, everyone thought I was a girl” himself in the text never stops to turn around, only acknowledging that Aidan himself after his revelation understands what it means not to belong.  In the end the author emphasizes that transgender children are really no different than those who stay with the gender they were born into. (more…)

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