N.S. moms pen new book that celebrates gender-diverse kids

·2 min read
Cynthia Sweeney and BriAnna Simons are involved in support groups for other families with transgender and gender expansive children. They recently self-published a book called The Pink Balloon.  (Submitted by Cynthia Sweeney and BriAnna Simon - image credit)
Cynthia Sweeney and BriAnna Simons are involved in support groups for other families with transgender and gender expansive children. They recently self-published a book called The Pink Balloon. (Submitted by Cynthia Sweeney and BriAnna Simon - image credit)

Two Nova Scotia moms raising transgender children have teamed up to self-publish a book that celebrates gender diversity.

BriAnna Simons and Cynthia Sweeney wrote The Pink Balloon as a resource for parents and educators who might feel unsure about talking with young kids about their identities.

They also hope the positive story helps kids feel like they belong.

"I wanted to show people the positivity that can be gained when we just give our children space in the world to really be able to show us who they are," Sweeney, a diversity, equity and inclusion educator, told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Tuesday.

The Pink Balloon, illustrated by Dartmouth-based visual artist Briana Corr Scott, tells the story of a family expecting their first child, Briar. They hold a gender reveal party and to their surprise, a pink balloon floats out of the box.

The story is based on Simons' own experiences as a new mom. She said there were indications about her child's true identity early on, and when she was four years old, she confidently let her parents know she's a girl.

"And then everything kind of happened quite quickly after that in regards to honouring her in the physical transformations that were supporting her gender ... in regards to clothing choices, outward appearance, name change and pronoun changes," said Simons, who is a clinical social worker on Nova Scotia's South Shore.

Sweeney said her son had a different experience. He told his parents he was transgender when he was 10 years old after his teacher read a book about gender identity at school.

"Looking back, there were clues and we just didn't know how to read them as parents at the time," she said.

Simons and Sweeney run support groups for families raising gender-diverse kids. For Sweeney, writing a positive children's book about inclusion had long been a dream.

Submitted by Cynthia Sweeney
Submitted by Cynthia Sweeney

She said many parents she speaks with worry about talking with their kids about gender identity at a young age, but she said it's incredibly important to have honest and open conversations early on.

She encourages parents to follow their children's lead and to listen to them.

"If we're not talking about that and we're not giving visibility, then ultimately we're putting shame upon these children," she said.

"To have these conversations earlier, you just see that ... the children are so confident and happy, but also their peers just accept them for who they are."

The Pink Balloon is available online and at local bookstores.

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