The transgender teddy bear teaching children about friendship and identity
Prompted by her father’s own decision to transition, Jessica Walton's book
tells the story of a teddy bear who identifies as female. She said...
“Dad told our family she was a woman a couple of years ago. This opened my eyes and it opened my mind.”
Jessica Walton, a secondary teacher turned public servant who lives in Melbourne, recalls how her dad’s
coming out moment was not only happy but also revelatory: “Being gay myself, having trans friends, and
being an active part of the LGBT community for a long time, rallying for gay marriage, etc., I didn’t know
this person I had known my whole life was a woman, and it was amazing to get to know her better.”
“You can be part of the LGBT community and still not really understand the difficulties, bullying, violence some people face,” she says. The experience prompted Walton to embark on a project. Soon after her dad’s transition began, Walton and her partner had their own child, and they started looking for children’s books that reflected their family. And, whereas they did find “great books” that featured gay parents, they had real trouble finding books featuring transgender and gender-fluid characters. So she decided to “write the book we wanted to read to our son”.
Teddy is described as “a gentle, positive picture book about being yourself, and being a good friend” on the Kickstarter page where Walton is crowdfunding money to self-publish it. It tells the story of Thomas the teddy, who is the best friend of a boy named Errol, and who identifies as girl and wants to be called Tilly.
The story – spoiler alert – has a happy ending, as Tilly’s friends respond “with love, care and respect. In no way does the friendship between them change when Teddy transitions, except perhaps that their friendship is strengthened by the experience,” article courtesy of the guardian