In this post, award-winning author and illustrator Maya Gonzalez shares why the picture book Call Me Tree / Llámame árbol is completely gender neutral.
You may or may not notice something different about my book, Call Me Tree. Nowhere in the story are boy/girl pronouns used. No ‘he’ or ‘she’ anywhere! I found it easy to write this way because that’s how I think of kids, as kids, not boy kids or girl kids.
I even requested that no ‘he’ or ‘she’ be used anywhere else in the book, like on the end pages or the back cover when talking about the story. I also asked the publisher to only refer to the main character as a child or kid when they talked about my book out in the world. Because I wanted Call Me Tree to be gender free!
Why? I’m glad you asked. Two reasons come to the top of my mind:
First, I know a lot of people. Some don’t feel that they fit into the boy or the girl box and of course, some do! By not using ‘he’ or ‘she,’ I could include everyone! This is very important to me. I want everyone to know that we all belong!
And second, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about the main character in Call Me Tree. Let’s call them ‘Tree.’ Tree is like a lot of people I know, including my own kids! Strong, curious, free! Now, if you were going to guess if Tree is a ‘he’ or a ‘she,’ which do you think?
I’m going to guess you’d say ‘he’ first, maybe because Tree’s already been called ‘he’ by folks who have given Call Me Tree some really awesome reviews. Tree could be he, but maybe not! A lot of times we make guesses based on what we think is true, but sometimes that can leave people out.
Tree’s reminding us there are lots of different ways to be!
I just remembered another top reason.
People who don’t fit into the boy or the girl box get teased more than anybody. This is extra not cool to me. I happen to know all kids rock, so I want to make sure the ones that get picked on the most know they rock! Right?!
So Call Me Tree is gender free! Because all trees belong!
Try it on for a day. Play with not being called ‘he’ or ‘she,’ but only Tree, tall and strong! Just for one day, or even one afternoon. Would anything feel different? Would you be different?
Let’s call it Tree Day. Let’s all be free. Let’s all be trees! Whatdya think?
Call me Tree!
When sharing this book, you may want to include that it’s gender free as part of the conversation in your classroom, library or home if:
- you have a child, family or community member who does not fit into the boy or girl box they were assigned at birth
- you want to expand the boxes to include more ways of being a girl or a boy
- you want to be inclusive of everyone regardless of boxes because everyone belongs
Download a PDF of Maya’s note to readers for Call Me Tree / Llámame árbol
For more resources:
Human Rights Campaign’s Gender and Children: A Place to Begin
Learning for Justice’s The Gender Spectrum
6 thoughts on “WHY CREATE A GENDER NEUTRAL PICURE BOOK? A Guest Post from Maya Gonzalez”
There is need. My staff has been discussing gender issues and needs for our student population. This is terrific!
I’m the music teacher at a private school. I’m also the faculty sponsor of the “Gay/Straight Alliance Plus” (which group is interested all sorts of gender variances, not just gay/straight).
This year, as usual, several of our kindergartners have names which I could not immediately identify as male or female. In most cases I now know each of those children as a girl or a boy, but in one case I have managed to forget what I learned in September. Is this child a girl, or a boy? I could have looked it up, of course. But instead I am challenging myself to ignore my curiosity and just enjoy and teach this delightful child without that information.
It was very difficult the other day when I needed to refer to the child using a pronoun, and had to kind of swallow the “s” in “she” so as not to call attention to it. But that’s been the only difficulty.
Certainly it is easier, friendlier, and more loving to focus on our similarities rather than our differences. But the differences we see can be the unique gift in each of us. I appreciated the coloring book that spoke of needing more than two groups. What a job you’ve undertaken, and are doing a good job. The education of children, I feel, still needs the understanding and consent of the parent.
Comments are closed.