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Backwards Day Paperback – Illustrated, 2012
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BACKWARDS DAY, set on the planet Tenalp, introduces us to a world where there are seventeen seasons, including one where bubblegum falls from the sky for three days and a single day when everything - everything everywhere - is backwards. Andrea looks eagerly forward to Backwards Day every year, so she can turn into a boy for the day. But one year she doesn't turn along with everyone else. She's miserable. The very next day, however, she turns into a boy - and stays that way! He's delighted, but his parents are distressed, and take him to the big city to consult with Backwardsologists. When they finally figure out what's happened, the miracles of Backwards Day are fully revealed to the reader.
Top Customer Reviews
So what is Flamingo Rampant doing to deconstruct the Trans 101 and shed a little more complexity, humanity, and push back to the mainstream narrative around gender identity that is fundamentally transphobic? Ummm... I don't really know.
I expected a "gender independent" kid to star in these new books. Ya know, a kid with a good dose of gender queerness. There's nothing queer about these books, though. In Backwards Day, we've got Andy, who "loved fishing and exploring and playing baseball, and almost all her friends were boys." Doesn't get much more stereotypical than that. Andy lives in a gender binary world (such a gender binary world, it appears, that women don't ever wear suits or wear work coveralls) and, through the magic that can happen in children's books, ends up physically transitioning overnight. The change in appearance is what really makes Andy happy, which is an extremely problematic message to send to young readers. While the book doesn't say Andy hormonally transitions, it essentially sends the message that the "happy ending" for trans kids is when they "pass" and are biologically different (Andy previously wore "male" clothing and had short hair, but is portrayed as being only truly happy and himself after he becomes a biological male). Hormonally transitioning is only one way in a myriad of ways that trans and genderqueer folks sometimes use to express their gender. Hormonally transitioning is not accessible for most trans children, and hormonal transitions are definitely not desired by all trans-identified people. Andy's story plays out as predictably as the "So when are you getting the sex change surgery?" question. He is taken to see a doctor, who confirms his gender identity. Perhaps this part of the plot was a conscious choice on the behalf of the author, meant to comfort young audiences who are used to being paraded around to different school psychologists, family doctors, and transgender "specialists." For those whose families haven't yet gone down this degrading path, though, wouldn't it be more radical to model a family response that doesn't include all the pathologizing? Wouldn't it be great to finally see a children's book where a family's first response to their trans kid is "I love you," instead of rushing off to see a professional for a diagnosis?
So this is great, you can spend sixteen bucks on a "radical" kid's book that just perpetuates gender stereotypes. Whoohoo. Both of these books don't offer anything in the way of a critical understanding of gender identity. They'd lead you to believe that if you've been assigned "female" at birth and you like to play sports, you're probably trans. Or if you were assigned "male" at birth and love ballet, you better head on over to family doc and get your diagnosis now, cuz everyone can see you're trans from a mile away. These lines of logic simply are not true, and they're not helpful as we try to deconstruct the gender binary that harms all children, not just the ones who are gender non-conforming.
There are SO few children's books with transgender main characters. Why couldn't S. Bear Bergman write one that models a trans kid who is genderqueer and has no interest in "passing" or assimilating into binary gender? Why isn't there a story about a kid who doesn't have to "out" themselves as trans...where there's a family that is already attuned to gender diversity and nurtures it from the get-go? Or for god sakes, how about a book about trans kids that doesn't feature a heterosexual, nuclear family? Where's the plot line that models all the kids in a realistic family (cis and trans and otherwise) casually talking about gender, instead of staring depressingly at a mirror or relying on supernatural interventions to initiate things? Well, I guess there is already a book sort of like this, but its author didn't have over $18,000 from a kickstarter campaign and the popularity from the professional "radical queer" community backing it, so it's still stuck in zine-form over at Microcosm Publishing (He, Her, Him: Free, Fer, Frim by Adrian Prawns Sinclair).
If you're wanting some bedtime material for your kiddo about gender, save your money and just tell `em stories about real life people instead...people who have had support, who have survived, who are gorgeous and sit on neither end of the supposed spectrum. If you don't know any of these kinds of people, call me up and I'll help you out. I'd rather tell your trans kid they're as amazing and beautiful as every other kid on this planet than tell them what they're feeling is as sensational as having opposites day actually come true, and stay true.