Growing up can be confusing. And it can be even more confusing for kids who are LGBTQ+. Often, these kids haven’t seen many people like them on the page or screen. The number of books about LGBTQ+ teens has grown quickly over the last ten years, but there are relatively few books about LGBTQ+ kids and tweens. For kids who are questioning their identities, though, these books can be life-changing.
People in the LGBTQ+ community can discover their identities at any age. Some of us start identifying as LGBTQ+ as adults, but many start to question as kids. A survey of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults by the Pew Research Center found that half of them had started to suspect they weren’t straight by age 12 (The survey didn’t gather enough data from transgender people for that particular statistic, but many transgender people report questioning their gender as kids as well). Even for those of us who didn’t discover our identities until adulthood, many of us felt we were different as children. We just didn’t understand why until we found the words later to understand what we were feeling.
Middle-grade books about LGBTQ+ characters can give kids a healthy, age-appropriate space to learn about and explore their identities. For tweens who are questioning, these books can reassure them that they’re not broken for feeling the way they do. They can give them words to understand their experiences and let them know they aren’t alone. Even for tweens who aren’t LGBTQ+ themselves, these books can help them understand other people’s experiences. A story about an LGBTQ+ character can give them context in the real world when they hear words like “gay” and “transgender” from their friends and neighbors or in the news.
In other words, books about LGBTQ+ tweens are incredibly important, for kids to understand both their own experiences and the world around them. But sometimes they can be hard to find. Stop by your local BPL branch to check out these recent middle-grade books about LGBTQ+ tweens written by out LGBTQ+ authors:
Hurricane Child, by Kheryn Callender: Bad luck has followed twelve-year-old Caroline since birth. But ever since her mother left home and didn’t return, her luck has only gotten worse. She and Kalinda, a girl she’s developed feelings for, set off to find Caroline’s mother in this beautiful, slightly magical story set in the Virgin Islands.
Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake: In the chaos after a tornado destroys her family’s home, twelve-year-old Ivy loses the notebook where she’d been using art to explore her feelings for girls. Then the person who took the notebook starts leaving Ivy mysterious notes. Blake’s novel perfectly captures the confusion, fear, and excitement of exploring your identity and deciding whether you’re ready to share it.
Felix Yz, by Lisa Bunker: Thirteen-year-old Felix was accidentally fused with an alien as a child. As he counts down to the dangerous procedure that will separate them, he writes about the challenges of middle school, including his crush on a boy. Even within this sci-fi story, what really stand out are Felix’s unique outlook on the world and the interesting cast of LGBTQ+ characters around him.
George, by Alex Gino: People think ten-year-old George is a boy, but she knows she’s a girl. When she wants to play Charlotte in her class’s production of Charlotte’s Web, she and her best friend come up with a plan to let everyone know who she truly is. While this title is a few years old, it still stands out as one of very few books about a transgender kid written by an out transgender author. This book can be a great way to start a conversation with kids about what it means to be transgender.
Looking for more recommendations? Check out the children’s section of the BPL's We Are Pride booklist for 2018.