My Big Cousin Ollie: A Mother/Son Publishing Duo
By: Tina Bauer
My Big Cousin Ollie is my first children’s book. It is very dear to my heart because my oldest son inspired it.
In 2019, my seventeen-year-old came out as transgender. It was not a surprise, and we were lucky to be surrounded by supportive family and friends. However, one of our concerns was how friends of ours would explain being transgender to their seven-year-old. He was the youngest member of our circle, and he always knew my son as “she,” “her,” and his former, given feminine name. We did not want him to feel confused, and we certainly did not want him to feel like he was losing someone.
This opened up so many questions: How should parents approach the conversation? Would the child feel guilty if they accidentally called him “her” or by his old name? How much should the parents tell him? How much will he understand?
I went online to find a children’s book to help our friends sit down with their child and open a conversation about transgender. I wanted a simple story, straight to the point. I wanted a story for young minds that would not be overwhelmed with medical terminology, the psychology of transgender, or politics. I did not want a book that felt like an agenda or was pandering to the LGBT community. I did not want a book read as lecturing the parents about how they and their child should feel. I wanted a simple story to introduce the term “transgender” to a child and then allow the parents to answer questions that might come up. I could not find what I was looking for.
I have been writing since I was a teen, and they say if you cannot find what you want to read, write it. With my son’s permission, I did.
I wrote the story I was looking for: a story for children that says transgender just is. No why or how. No big words. Just acceptance and love. It is a story that says it’s okay to need time to get used to the new pronouns and names. It is okay to be confused, and it is okay to be transgender.
My son was always a creative soul, so he joined me and became my illustrator. Together, we made this mother/son project happen. With My Big Cousin Ollie, we hope to help children who have a beloved cousin, sibling, aunt, uncle, friend, or neighbor who comes out as transgender. We want My Big Cousin Ollie to allow parents to answer questions their children might have on their terms. Every family is different. Every child is different. Every age is different. We hope My Big Cousin Ollie helps parents have an opening to talk to their children and tell them that being transgender does not change much. The person they love is still the same.
This children’s book has been a joy to work on. It has also opened our eyes to just how diverse and wonderful our family is. My son and I are looking forward to adding to My Big Cousin Ollie. We are writing and illustrating more children’s stories inspired by different family members, beginning with our next book: My Fun Aunt Millie.
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