Local artist to publish children’s novel about gender non-conformity


By Jolene Perron


Owner of the Mudpuppy Gallery and local artist, Melissa Piva has begun an Indiegogo campaign to assist her in self-publishing her children’s novel.

“They live on the third shelf up in the boys section of the toy store with all the other dinosaurs,” explained Piva. “They look so much like the other dinosaurs, they’re the same leafy green, they have the same shiny white teeth, they’re all the same height but at night Rory sneaks over to what is the girls section of the toy store and watches the dolls dance and watches the stuffed animals have a tea party and wishes that they could be part of all of these things. And then one night, the toys on the girls section notice Rory is watching them and they invite Rory to join in. Rory has the best night of their life, they dance, they have a tea party, they play dress up and they do all of these things and at the end of the night they don’t make it back to the boys section of the store.”

Piva explained, throughout the whole story, instead of assigning either gender, and instead of going specifically with transgender, she is trying to keep it so that it’s gender non-conforming. In doing this, if a child who is just questioning things reads the story they can relate to it. If it’s a child who relates more feminine or more masculine, Piva is using ‘they’ and ‘their’ as the pronouns instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ for both the child and for the dinosaur so that it’s relatable.

The novel is inspired by her experiences with her gender-creative child.

“She transitioned socially in the summer between JK and SK, she was four,” said Piva. “In JK she started picking out Hello Kitty t-shirts that had belonged to her older sister, and some t-shirts from the girls section at Wal-Mart which had rainbows and glitter and sparkles, and then her backpack broke halfway through the year and she picked out a Hello Kitty backpack and lunch pail and proud as punch brought it up the cash register.”

Local artist and owner of the Mudpuppy Gallery, Melissa Piva, has opened a crowd-funding campaign to get the public involved with helping her to self-publish her children’s book titled Rory’s Rainbow, a story about gender-non-conformity.

Local artist and owner of the Mudpuppy Gallery, Melissa Piva, has opened a crowd-funding campaign to get the public involved with helping her to self-publish her children’s book titled Rory’s Rainbow, a story about gender-non-conformity.

During the summer between JK and SK, Piva was shopping for back to school clothes with her children when her child explained she needed a dress to go back to school “so the other kids and teacher would know she was a girl.” Piva explained it was the first time her child had said anything along those lines, and that was exactly how it came out.

The week before school went back Piva was able to take her child out dress shopping where she picked out a “sleeveless leopard print dress with a twirly skirt” and that is what she wore to the first day of kindergarten.
“I took her to the school and I stood next to her, ready to start with whoever started with her, and all the other kids in the class ran up and said ‘I really like your headband,’ ‘I really like your dress.’ Even the little boys in the class and I was so grateful for that,” said Piva.

Piva explained everything has been led by her child. Piva refused to use different pronouns until her child sat down with her and told her to use different pronouns. She said every child when they’re three misgenders, but her child, as very intelligent child, kept misgendering all the way through senior kindergarten and one day sat down with Piva and asked, “Do you think I’m a he or a she?” to which Piva replied “You are whatever you tell me.” Piva said her child explained to her “well I’m a girl, can you use she and her?”

One of the first things Piva did was search out books at different age levels to see what there was available, and what she could get approved by the board and get into the school. Not just books about acceptance, but books about children who are transgender, or children who don’t fit into their gender stereotypes, little boys who like to wear dresses, little girls who like to play with dump trucks and anything she could get into the library’s so that the kids have things they can relate to. Piva said she thinks it’s really important for kids to have something they can look at and see themselves in it.

“I had also looked for books for my older kids I actually had gotten two youth novels that were both about individuals who were transgender and coming out to their family,” said Piva. “My oldest used one of them last year for her book report for an oral presentation and we then ended up passing the book around the class because both parents and kids wanted to read it. It makes it more mainstream. If the child comes home and it’s not a child who necessarily relates to the book like that, but it shows them that it’s ok to accept kids who are like that, and they bring it home and the parents see it, and the parents see how easily the kids accept it.”

Piva explained her inspiration for her own novel came from her researching books about gender-nonconforming children, and transgender children, and how they seem to be harder to find. She wanted to make an effort to help make the subject more mainstream, not just for the children, but also for their parents.

“When I go [to PFLAG meetings] and I hear people who are older who talk about how they haven’t seen their parents in 15 years because they had to leave home because their religious beliefs and they would never be accepted and their parents don’t even know they were living as a lesbian before they transitioned,” explained Piva. “I just don’t get it. I’m grateful for that, and I feel so awkward because I’ll have adults who come to these meetings who are thanking me for supporting my child and I think, that’s my kid. That’s what you’re supposed to do. This is my child, and who cares what pronouns she’s using, who cares what she’s wearing, this is my child who has always been a very affectionate child, and a smart child, and a mouthy child, and very quick witted and why does the rest of it matter? It doesn’t.”

To help Piva with publishing her novel, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-publish-rory-s-rainbow#/. Part of the reason Piva decided to use Indiegogo is because she can give her crowd-funders the option to pre-purchase their copy of the book or, for those who donate larger amounts, they can purchase an original copy of some of the artwork.

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