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Home » Review » Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? by C. J. Atkinson, illus. Olly Pike

Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? by C. J. Atkinson, illus. Olly Pike

Meet Kit – a 12 year old undergoing medical transition – as he talks about gender and the different ways it can be explored. He explains what it is like to transition and how his friends, family and teachers can help through talking, listening and being proactive.

With illustrations throughout, this is an ideal way to start conversations about gender diversity in the classroom or at home and suitable for those working in professional services and settings. The book also includes a useful list of recommended reading, organisations and websites for further information and support.
Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? first came to my attention thanks to its media coverage in the wake of condemnation by such luminaries as Norman Tebbit, former Thatcherite Cabinet member and rabid queerphobe, and Sarah Vine, columnist for the vile rag the Daily Mail. It is a resource for (young) children and for adults who work with them to better understand gender diversity, and part of a series of such volumes on different issues from the same publisher.

The book is divided into two parts: first, forty-odd pages, with illustrations, about Kit, a fictional trans boy who tells us about growing up so far, accessing the Gender Identity Clinic, accessing school facilities, resources and support, going onto hormone blockers, and his trans friends, who include nonbinary people and a trans girl. This section of Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? is clearly aimed at children, both those who are trans and those who are cis, as a broad explanation of trans issues; it uses simpler language, although it introduces things like neopronouns and legal issues around the Equality Act (2010). It also presents, very clearly, things like the difference between gender identity, gendered stereotypes, sex, and sexuality, and explains how those are unrelated, a key thing for children.

The second section of Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? is about half the length and focuses heavily on explaining to adults how they can support trans children, at home, at school and in other settings. This section gets more technical and specific, but also brushes lightly over a number of issues; one of the major problems is its UK-centric nature (GICs, GIRES, and the Equality Act (2010) are all UK institutions), given that it is for distribution internationally, and another is its occasional inaccuracies. Atkinson’s guidance about the law, for instance, suggests that the Equality Act (2010), in protecting gender reassignment, protects people whether or not they medically transition; in reality, however, the position is that only those who intend to, are, or have undergone medical transition are protected (therefore, for instance, I am not), an important mistake. However, the clarity of explanation of the duties of confidentiality and support are welcome.

The one other area Atkinson glosses over rapidly in Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? is that of intersex people. There is one brief mention of intersex people, and there is an entry in the glossary, but some more information, especially for parents and professionals, might have been helpful; after all, intersex children are more likely than most to have medical procedures forced upon them by adults who do not understand intersex conditions, and to be raised in ways that very strictly enforce gender conformity. A little more attention paid to these issues would have been welcome.

In the end, though, I wish something like Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? had been in circulation when I was at school; something that might have put a name to some of the unease I felt about myself, and helped me understand it. C. J. Atkinson has produced a vitally important resource I hope schools across the UK capitalise on.

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  1. cursede says:

    Nice read!! I’m from the UK and blog about trans stuff a lot. So it really seems like I need to get this book.

    I think it’s misleading to call blockers “medical transition” when the entire point of them is purely to give the child more time to decide what they want to do. There is no transition involved here. It’s this kind of framing of trans issues that seems to get people scared as heck about it too. It’s not how I would’ve phrased it.

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