With the current presidential administration rolling back protections for transgender and nonbinary students and adults, it’s more important than ever to instill in children a respect for and celebration of gender diversity. A new picture book, They, She, He easy as ABC dismantles rigid gender stereotypes and assumptions and encourages very young readers to practice using inclusive pronouns right alongside learning the alphabet. Written and illustrated by Pura Belpre Honor Award winner Maya Christina Gonzalez and joined by her partner Matthew, They, She, He easy as ABC is a playful rhyming celebration of children’s naturally diverse and exuberantly fluid expression.
“Pronouns are one of the first ways that kids are taught to gender themselves and others. By linking gender inclusive pronouns with something as fundamental as learning the ABCs, we can model that gender inclusion is as essential as language acquisition.”
They, She, He easy as ABC continues the work started by Maya & Matthew in their previous debut book together, They She He Me: Free to Be! released in 2017 which School Library Journal gave a starred review saying “the authors have succeeded in creating a gorgeous and much-needed picture book about pronouns and gender fluidity. A beautiful and gentle exploration of identity and kindness.” Both books are part of the Gender Wheel curriculum and published through Reflection Press, an independent publishing house founded by Maya and Matthew in 2009 with the intention to create the books about their communities they feel are missing from the traditional publishing scene.
“Gender assumptions and stereotypes are literally embedded in how we teach and use language. It can be invisible to us because it seems like part of reality, but it’s not. And it has a very real impact of erasing and placing judgment on queer, trans, nonbinary and gender expansive kids, putting them at greater risk from a young age. The Gender Wheel books and educational materials help interrupt this erasure by providing visible reflection and more fluid teaching alternatives from the beginning,” Gonzalez says.
These books also connect in with another book by Maya Gonzalez, Call Me Tree, published by Lee&Low books and named to Kirkus’ Best Picture Books of 2014 That Celebrate Diversity. In Call Me Tree, Gonzalez specifically refrained from using any gender-specific pronouns offering a respite from gender conformity and inviting kids to grow freely and uniquely into themselves just like a tree.
Maya and Matthew provide workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area and across the US that share Maya’s Gender Wheel curriculum. The curriculum provides hands-on tools to explore gender in holistic, nature-based ways and places their children’s books in a larger multidisciplinary context to show how these books can be used to make change in the classroom and at home.
About: Maya Gonzalez and Matthew SG are the founders of Reflection Press, a queer and trans owned independent press based in San Francisco. Parents and partners, their work uses holistic, nature-based and anti-oppression frameworks to create books and materials that support a strong sense of individuality along with a community model of real inclusion. www.reflectionpress.com and www.genderwheel.com