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July 23, 2018 | by  | in Books |
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Analysing the Queer Content in Children’s Puberty Books

Growing up in the days before high-speed internet, my sexuality education was gained through the copy of What’s Happening to Me? that was slid underneath my bedroom door on my 11th birthday. These puberty books shaped the way that whole generations came to understand sexuality and identity during our most formative adolescent years, when we were just figuring out who we were.

Flash forward 10 years and it feels like the roles have flipped. Thanks to a revolution in the way we interpret sex, gender, and sexuality, young people are sliding updated ideas back under the proverbial bedroom doors of baby boomers everywhere.
So have the puberty books been following?
I embarked on a mission to find the most woke kids’ book about coming-of-age. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the library, the books I was searching for were nowhere to be seen. With a heavy heart I approached the information desk and asked for help in finding a copy of Puberty and Your Body. All in the name of research.
The Girl Files
by Jacqui Bailey – 2/5

Let’s get the most obvious critique out the way, which is the cis-normative title of this book and the way its cover was decorated with pink butterflies and flowers. I guess a lot of pre-teens love that shit, but it was a pretty cringe-worthy caricature of the female mind. When I flipped to the “It must be Luurve” section (vom), I was dismayed to find that male pronouns were used every time the author referred to someone’s potential crush. At one point the author did acknowledge that girls can have crushes on other girls, but the context was questionable: “It doesn’t matter who you have a crush on – it could be… a pop star or someone on telly. Or a teacher or a family friend. Or you might have a crush on another girl.” These crazy kids, swooning after implausible love interests like pop stars and other girls!
100% Me: The How, Why, and When of Growing Up
by Elinor Greenwood & Alexander Cox – 3/5

Once again I found myself flipping through to the “Crushes” chapter, feeling utterly thankful that my time as a tween was far behind me. This book was more promising: a quarter of its romance section was dedicated to sexuality. It briefly outlined what it means to be heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual, and reassured the reader that they’re not the antichrist if they don’t like kissing boys. It wasn’t groundbreaking stuff – it was cool that they brought up bisexuality, but a lot of other identities were still missing from the discussion.
Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up
By Adah Nuchi – 4/5

Listen, I’m a 19 year old socialist with a scathing opinion on mostly everything, but I was INTO this book. Finally, a mention of gender diversity! The author talked about the challenges that kids face when they reach puberty and realise that they don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Some of the kids in this book had same-sex parents, and the dating section celebrated diverse sexuality and gender orientations. The author used gender neutral pronouns in the appropriate places, and organically integrated queer concepts throughout the chapters. My kids will receive a copy of this book upon their birth.

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