This is the Love Me for Me project, a project aimed at sharing stories of children and families in the transgender community.
We believe that every child has the right to see and hear themselves represented and have their experiences valued, rather than silenced or ignored.
Right now, transgender children are not being represented in books or media available to them. You can find children’s books about almost everything: moving residences, getting new siblings, being adopted, brushing your teeth, changing school, buying a hamster, cutting your hair, and many other topics. YET, transgender and gender non-conforming children and families don’t have books that tell their stories.
Many trans people told us how they would have loved to have these stories when they were kids, or how their young siblings, children, nephews and nieces just didn’t have stories that explained their experiences – we want that to be different for the next generation!
The project started when a transgender parent said: “You know, when I transitioned there were no books for my kids”. What started as a simple phrase between friends has grown into a movement.
Why don’t you join us?
What are we up to?
Our main goal is to give the transgender community a tool to be represented and tell their own stories. We want the books to be a starting point and not an end point. In our ideal plan, they’ll be a conversation trigger.
For this reason we want to:
1. Sell the books!
We want to sell these books widely and get them into the hands of as many children, families and people as possible. We want them in libraries, schools, hospitals, and anywhere where children receive care and need to feel like they belong. The proceeds from the book sales will be donated to various transgender organizations in the US and the Netherlands.
2. Offer the stories in various languages.
We want to reach as many different children in as many different cultures as possible… Do you speak a language other than Dutch or English and want the books to reach your local community? Contact us and let’s arrange a translation!
3. Share the stories locally!
The stories have been shared locally through readers’ theatre performances. A readers’ theatre is a performance in which a group of people reads the stories, impersonating the characters in the stories. The performances increase the audience’s empathy towards the characters, and understanding of their joys and struggles! This is one of the ways that the stories can be shared. Start your own reading group or commit to reading a story to a child one on one.
4. Discussion guide
We wrote the stories to broaden our community’s perspective about children and or families that break through the gender norm. We have created a discussion guide that can be used to start a conversation. While reflecting on the stories we can discuss with each other our own views about gender norms.
1. In the US
It started with a simple phrase “You know there were no books for my children when I transitioned”. So spoke Mr. Sayer Johnson, president of the Metro Transgender Umbrella Group in an informal exchange with Aminata Cairo after one of his many public presentations in 2013. That phrase stuck in her head and wouldn’t leave. So a few weeks later she contacted him with an answer: “I think we can do something about that”, and so the Love Me For Me project was born.
From 2013 to 2014 Dr. Aminata Cairo then Assistant Professor Anthropology at Southern Illinois University (SIUE) engaged in a collaboration with the Metro Transgender Umbrella Group (MTUG) from the St. Louis Metro region under the direction of Mr. Sayer Johnson and Ms. Anne Wolfe from the Edwardsville Library Children’s Department. Students that attended an applied anthropology course and an independent study course were able to engage the transgender community and collect data that contributed to the production of six children’s stories. In addition, Dr. Cairo and Mr. Johnson submitted the project for a SIUE Meridian Grant and received funding for an illustrator (Samir Barrett) of the stories. Subsequently, Professor Kathryn Bentley from the SIUE Department of Theatre and Dance became involved and organized a reader’s theater production of the stories with students and community artists. The stories were performed as part of Transgender Visibility week 2014 at the NCCJ conference, the St. Louis LGBT Center, SIUE, and the Edwardsville public library.
2. Now, In the Netherlands
After Dr. Cairo moved to the Netherlands the project was revived in 2016 in .collaboration with the Leiden University Office of Diversity and Inclusion, students from Leiden University College and The Hang Out 070, an LGBTQ+ organization for youth in The Hague. Together they pursued the publishing of the stories and sharing the stories again via reader’s theater format. From this collaboration, the request rose to add a story about a non-binary child.
After becoming lector of Inclusive Education at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in 2017, the stories once again followed Dr. Cairo. Under direction of Mathieu Heemelaar, a selection of the stories were adopted into the minor Sexuality and Diversity. In addition, a discussion guide was added, and the Rachel Rickie story was translated into various languages. As we neared publication the project has been embraced by Papaya Kuir, a support organization for undocumented transgender people. This has been a collaboration between so many people, from transgender community members to college students, to professionals, or just those who have a warm heart towards children and inclusivity. We hope you will join us in this valuable work.