So we are entering a miniboom in children’s books about a particular type of sexual identity, or mis-identity. It will surprise no one that these books refrain from skepticism about the transgender condition or, in the memoirs, about the appropriateness of adolescents undergoing genital surgeries and powerful hormone treatments. These are books that seek to engage the sympathies of young readers on behalf of people who believe themselves imprisoned in alien bodies, and, in doing so, to nudge the needle of the culture.
“The window of time in which children are truly open-minded is startlingly small,” Jessica Herthel writes in the promotional material for “I Am Jazz.” Whether the window is quite so small as Ms. Herthel believes seems open to question, considering the speed with which the culture has embraced, say, homosexuality, but we can take her larger point: Inculcating tolerance for people’s innate sexual differences is both kind and sensible. As little ponytailed Jazz tells us: “I was born this way!”
The profusion of books may strike some as out of proportion to the subject under discussion. As noted in these pages recently, according to studies by Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70% to 80% of children who report transgender feelings lose them as the children mature. That might help explain why the adult transgender population is vanishingly small: A 2011 study by UCLA’s Williams Institute, which conducts research into sexual-orientation and gender-identity law and public policy, estimated that transgender people make up 0.3% of the U.S. population.