My Dad Thinks I’m a Boy by own voices Sophie Labelle is one of those uplifting, yet heartbreaking stories. You love it, but it hurts. And truthfully, I did expect that going in. After all, this is a book about a transgender girl whose father cannot let go of the belief that his daughter is actually his son. It’s a story that I’m sure a number of trans children might have gone through, themselves. In that, I am grateful that this book exists.
The story follows Stephie who is seven years old. But her dad just can’t seem to stop calling her Stephen and insist that she take part in activities he sees as typically boy-ish and wants her to enjoy just as he does. In a great many ways this book promotes self-awareness and a patience with adults that no seven year old should ever have to exhibit. Stephie admits that she knows her father does not understand and is regularly empathetic toward his difficulty to accept her for who she is.
I know this book got a bit of criticism, ultimately, for leaving the ending somewhat open-ended. It doesn’t go on to portray Stephie’s father developing an understanding for who his daughter is. The book doesn’t show a progression in which he realizes the errors of his ways and is able to eventually become less closed-minded. Instead, it focuses on Stephie’s resilience and her ability to recognize that even though her father is acting, as she says, childish, she still loves him. And I think it’s fascinating, in a children’s book, to see the child main character showing more maturity than her parent.
I don’t personally see the way the book ended as problematic, but rather I find it to be incredibly uplifting. It’s amazing what Stephie is able to do for her father and recognize within herself. It’s utterly brilliant that she can portray such emotional intelligence and maturity in such a volatile and painful situation. And the thing is, I think this story is left open-ended in a way that allows anyone in a similar situation to see themselves and their story. While I hate to admit it, there are some parents out there who struggle to ever accept their child. Fortunately, there are others who do eventually see where they were wrong.
And perhaps it’s just me, but I prefer to see a book that offers both possibilities to its readers, ultimately resulting in the opportunity to accept that no matter what their parent is or isn’t able to accept in the end, who they are is good and okay and they will always be able to work through these hard times. It is that message that I believe Stephie sends most and sends well. I appreciate her for that.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.