If your child struggles with a bully at school or can’t understand their math homework, you do your best to help. Maybe you explain what makes for a “good” friend or help them recognize which people are toxic so their nasty insults can slide off. You sit by their side and power through math homework (even if you don’t understand it yourself), pulling out textbooks with examples (if they exist anymore) or Googling the method. You’re there to provide comfort and assistance no matter how difficult the process is.

But what if your child comes to you with questions about who they are inside? Hopefully, they can approach you and find the same safe space.

What if they are confused about their feelings for someone of the same sex? What if they’re curious about their friend with two moms? What if your baby boy wants to grow his hair long and feels better when he wears mascara?

As a loved one, guardian, teacher, trusted friend, or parent, discussing tough topics may be difficult or uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean the child is any less confused or worried. Having an open discussion about their feelings is the best way to help. Find a way to communicate openly and without judgment—because isn’t childhood hard enough? 

Picture books can provide an entry point to difficult discussions about identity and gender.

If a child recognizes their worries through someone else’s eyes, it lessens their own loneliness. A curious child with gay parents can read a fun story about a girl with two moms or two dads and realize families come in different styles, and all can be accepted. If someone wrestles with gender and identity, it might help to read about Morris Mickelwhite, who is happiest when wearing his tangerine dress, or Julian, who dresses like a mermaid.  Here are some picture books to open up conversations with kids. Everyone deserves to be loved and accepted. 

Worm Loves Worm – JJ Austrian

[Fun fact – worms are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female parts.] When Worm meets a special friend and falls in love, they plan their wedding. The biggest dilemma is who wears the dress and the tux? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because Worm loves Worm. And that’s all they need. A story about the true meaning of relationships without getting hung up on labels.



Family is Family – Melissa Marr

As Little Chick walks to school with his two moms, he notices some families have both a dad and a mom, and other kids have siblings. Little Chick notices families that fly or have teeth instead of beaks. He’s curious and fascinated by the various families but perfectly happy with his own family, who loves him. There is no one definition of family or what one should look like.



Bathe the Cat – Alice McGinty

It’s cleaning day, and the cat HATES to take a bath. Dad, Papa, and the kids scramble to clean in a rhyming text filled with blunders and fun. The biracial family with two dads is not the book’s main focus, just characters in the story. The family’s diversity within a fun-filled, laugh-out-loud story demonstrates their unique family is no different from yours or mine. But did the cat get its bath?



Love Makes a Family – Sophie Beer

This fun board shows various families engaged in games, biking, and fun. Some families have two dads, others have only one parent, and some are of different races. What ultimately matters is that each family has love—because that’s all that matters.



Over the Shop – JonArno Lawson

This is a wordless picture book—my favorite. The illustrations tell the story but let the reader infer and interpret the details. A lonely girl and her grandfather must rent the room over their shop. The room needs work…and someone with a special touch to make the run-down space into a home. When a couple settles in, their genders are not apparent in the illustrations, but it doesn’t matter to the story. A non-binary couple brings joy and companionship to the lonely girl and her grandfather while making the space their home. 


Teo’s Tutu – Maryann Jacob Macias

Teo loves to dance! When the recital nears, he worries that his shimmering silver pants or sparkling tutu might draw too much attention. Should he brave the stage as his authentic self?! Childhood is when kids shouldn’t have to worry about what others think and be free to express themselves, spin, play, jump, and be silly as they learn about the world around them. But what if a child feared that expressing their inner self would make them a target?


Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress – Christine Baldachhino

Morris loves to create, imagine new worlds, and play in the class dress-up center. His classmates don’t understand why he likes to wear dresses. Isolated and alone, Morris creates a spaceship and invites others on his space journey. His dress is forgotten as his classmates marvel at his creativity and play at his side. It’s a story we’ve all heard before: appearances don’t matter, and what’s on the inside counts. Helping kids understand this at a young age could change the world. 


Pink, Blue, and You! – Elise Gravel

Complicated topics for kids to understand, like gender identity, are addressed with open-ended questions to help them understand gender and stereotypes. This is a great book to open conversations and stimulate discussion. Can boys cry? Does it matter what boys and girls wear? Can girls have big muscles? The book does not give all the answers but allows the reader to think freely and is a great way to discuss gender. 


Cinderelliot – Mark Ceilley and Rachel Smoka-Richardson

A fairy tale turned upside-down! The prince proposes a baking competition, but Cinderelliot is trapped with his stepsiblings at home. Fairy Godfather Ludwig helps Cinderelliot bake a cake, which the prince loves. When Cinderelliot drops his hat while leaving, the prince searches for its owner and the prize baker. He finds Cinderelliot, his new royal baker, and the man of his dreams.


Queer and Fearless – Rob Sanders

Kids learn about legacies in the queer community who have stood up for what they believe, withstood adversity, and changed lives. A book of poems dedicated to heroes in the LGBTQ+ community. 

Julian is a Mermaid – Jessica Love

Julian loves mermaids. When Julian sees spectacular women dressed in flowy dresses on the subway, he can’t wait to dress in his own beautiful clothes to become a mermaid. He wraps himself in a curtain and puts ferns in his hair until Abuela (grandma) finds him. Will she be mad? Not at all! Abuela celebrates with Julian and takes him to a festival in his elegant mermaid outfit. 


Happy Pride Month!

I am an ally and friend to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who needs a safe space. The Internet is filled with book lists on identity and inclusivity, this is only a teeny snapshot of the books out there!

Thanks for visiting Pat’s Chat! If you want to be emailed when a new blog is posted, please put your email address on my web page! Coming up… Travels to Olympic National Park.

Publishing journey update: My wonderful agent has sent my manuscript out for submission! It’s all very exciting. Potential publishers will read and review the novel to determine whether they are interested in publishing it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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