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10 Best Children’s Books about Sexuality

10 Best Children’s Books about Sexuality

Sooner than later we need to talk about sex with our kids – and by that I mean sexuality – and for that I have the 10 best children’s books about sexuality.

Nope, not talking about sexual intercourse, don’t worry. (Although all these conversations should start earlier than later.)

Nor am I referencing gender. Gender is separate from sexuality. Don’t forget: sexuality is the object of your attraction. Gender identity is how you identify inside.

I have a list of books about gender identity over here that can help you navigate this important topic with your young children (preschool through early elementary.)

My 10 best children’s books about sexuality deals with same-sex attraction.

These are surprisingly rare, especially given how society thinks of “gay” as being the umbrella term for most topics about unconventional identities.

Further, most children’s books are about another kid’s family looking different with two mommies or two daddies. Those are great ice-breakers.

But let’s talk about the protagonist of the book actually being the gay one, shall we?

THAT’S the rub…to have a central character be the gay character and therefore relatable, sympathetic and inspiring.

The following books have a gay character as the central hero who can inspire your kids regardless their own sexual identity.

Marlon Bundo

By Jill Twiss. Leaving aside the fact that John Oliver’s joyful and touching book was meant as a parody mocking Karen Pence’s “A Day in the Life of the Vice-President”, Marlon Bundo is a rollicking book about a rabbit, his love for another bunny, and their struggle to overcome the crabby man with whom they live. It’s not about sex, it’s about love. And justice.

And Tango Makes Three

by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole One of the pioneering children’s books about gay love based on the true story of two male penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo who nested together, tried to hatch a rock, and were given an egg to foster (which they did successfully.) Seen as an excellent introduction for children to learn who families differ and love is love.

Who Am I?

Brook Pessin-Wedbee & Naomi Bardoff. Not a fiction book, but an interesting sociological study and beautifully illustrated book for children to analyze all the different ways they might identify, helping lay out the difference between sexuality and gender. (Possibly an excellent primer for confused parents, as well.)

Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with the Spoon

by Jacinta Bunnell & Nat Kusinitz

By adapting classic nursery rhymes and melding them with true children’s accounts of their non-conforming identities, this book allows little boys and girls know that convention is passe and there’s lots of ways to be themselves.

Prince & Knight

by Daniel Haack A modern fairy tale in which a prince and knight team up to fight a monster and end up finding love in the process. Can’t wait for the Disney adaptation.

King & King

By Linda deHaan and Stern Nijland This fractured fairy tale takes readers on a journey down the wedding aisle of a prince and prince. A predictable fractured fairy tale that turns convention upside down. The illustrations are often confusing, but it adds another queer protagonist to your kid’s collection.

Jack & Jim

A parable celebrating a friendhsip (that borders on love) and celebrating diversity in many forms – be it race, interests, backgrounds, and socioeconomics. It’s an ambiguous book that doesn’t smack readers over the head with messaging, leaving lots to young imaginations.

Worm & Worm

by J.J. Austrian and Mike Curato

When two worms fall in love, their friends don’t necessarily understand as they wonder who will wear the dress or the tux? Such details don’t matter when a worm just loves a worm.

Princess Princess Ever After


By Katie O’Neill

This graphic novel by an award-winning authro is for emerging readers. It breaks gender norms, embraces same-sex love, takes readers on fractured fairy tale adventures, and is thrillingly unconventional. Even the stereotoypes of the prissy princess and the tom boy are manipulated.

This Day in June

By Gayle Pitman and Kristyna Litten

A non-fiction primer on Pride Month and the history and celebrations that make all the rainbows worth it after the struggles of acceptance and and rights.

That was 10, but another author always deserves a special mention for his clear embracing of all children and all differences and all ways to love one another:

It’s Okay to be Different

By Todd Parr

Almost anything by Todd Parr is going to empower children to be who they are, love who they want, and celebrate differences. With simple, beautiful illustrations and simple, beautiful messages, Parr shows us all the most profound lessons are easy for children to understand.

Mother’s Day For Two Dads

Mother’s Day For Two Dads

A few years ago I was reminded of the unexpected realization that Mother’s Day for two dads is always kind of an issue. I was at the playground with my kid when he found a toy and wanted to take it home. It was a broken robot I’d wager was abandoned. I told him he needed to ask around to see if it belonged to any other children and, if not, he could take it home.

This was, btw, a total ploy to make him comfortable speaking with approaching strangers. #integratededucation

He approached a nanny a few feet away.

“Is this yours?”

“No,” she responded. “You should go ask your mom.”

As he turned away from her he said, “No I don’t have a mommy. I have a daddy.” He took a step, turned back, and finished, “No. I have two daddies. I have Daddy and I have Tatty.”

Then he ran onto the next guardian at the playground to continue his canvassing to figure out the owner of the toy.

The nanny smiled at me. That was the first I’d ever heard my son reference our family make-up.

It was awesome.

Often, we gay dads get a little defensive about conventional assumptions there’s a lady in our lives.

Mother’s Day for two dads, as I see on social media, often creates animosity. Lots of new gay dads will get a little huffy about being asked, “is it Mom’s day off?” or “Ahhhh, you giving Mom a break?” And we often get defensive and angry.

But we can all let that go. Societal convention is hard to break down.

My partner and I didn’t specifically discuss Mother’s Day during our months of debate over having a child. We did, however, discuss the significance of not having a mother in the household. He postulated, “But really – what if our kid’s missing something?”

I knew how I felt about the lack of a mother figure in our household: they wouldn’t be missing anything. We would love our kids as much as anyone else could and that was what mattered.

With several bottles of wine and hours of discussion, one could argue that my children might miss something by not having a biological mother in the household. What that might be is subject to animated debate.

But wasn’t I “missing” something when my father passed away when I was 8 years old? Aren’t innumerable kids “missing” something when they’ve lost a parent, or their favorite grandparent passes, or they lose both parents in a tragic accident?

The “what if’s” are endless.

But what my kids might theoretically lack (according to conventional definition) is over-shadowed by what they have: a loving family unit that will unconditionally love, support, educate, entertain, and enrich them.

So…my partner and I do not identify as mothers.

How do we “deal” with Mother’s Day for two dads?

It annoys me when people joke, “Happy Mother’s Day to you! Wait. Are you the mother? Or should we say it to your partner?”

Yeah, it’s happened a lot.

Listen, I know two dads is still (sort of) a novelty. But neither of us magically sprouted two X chromosomes when we became fathers. We’re two dads, not a dad and a pseudo-mom. We fill all the roles of child-rearing, whatever stereotypical gender rules have existed in the past. So…really – you don’t need to wish us a happy day. It’s not our day. You can simply wish us both a “Happy Father’s Day” in about six weeks.

In preschool a few years ago, our teacher gave us a heads-up: “There’s going to be a Mother’s Day project. We hope you don’t mind.”

Of course not. How can we be offended? Our kids know that some (nay, most) other kids have mothers. In each case, though, we’ve said, “Hopefully you’ll just discuss different types of families. Not everyone has a mother.”

(Funny enough, last year my son came home with an adorable clay planting pot he’d painted. Attached was a pre-printed letter wishing us, “Happy Mother’s Day.” I was mildly annoyed by that. The teacher didn’t need to include the letter. But whatever.)

I wouldn’t be opposed to “Parent’s Day.” Why do parental holidays need to be separated?- except stores might not as easily spread out the mass consumption of cards, flowers, spa treatments, ties and barbecues. But why couldn’t we combine these days into the celebration of “people who love their children”?

Just to be clear: I’m not offended by Mother’s Day or even wishes of Happy Mother’s Day. I know it comes from people who want to include me in everything that is the beauty of parenting. I just don’t think the Hallmark holiday really applies to me. So why not Parent’s Day?

Just a thought.

For me, Mother’s Day for two dads is a day when I think about the mother I lost at far too young an age.

I appreciate the increasing number of Facebook posts I see stating, “Here’s to those who’ve lost their mother and feel loss on this day.” Heck, I’m the one feeling loss, not my kids.

But for me, Mother’s Day is also a celebration of my mom’s success as a parent, without which I wouldn’t have a family at all.

So my kids aren’t missing anything. Instead, they have something equally full and rich and beautiful as any other family with two parents, a sibling, a dog and piles of dirty laundry.

In a few years, we will probably have more in-depth conversations about it. Perhaps jerks will make them think they’re missing something. Or maybe they’ll grow up identifying one of us as the “mother”…and then I promise to write about a change in my own perspective.

Regardless, we will roll with the changes. Embracing our family reality will hopefully be the least of my sons’ worries.

At least that’s how I intend for it to be.

Most important: to everyone who is a mother or identifies as a mother, thank you for loving us: your children. Happy Mother’s Day. And for those who feel loss and just a tinge of sadness as they remember their wonderful mothers: you’re not alone.

Mom’s Night Off? Not when You’re a Gay Dad

Mom’s Night Off? Not when You’re a Gay Dad

When I first became a dad, I didn’t expect to be forced to out myself as gay, but since everyone assumes you’re straight (understandably) because when you’re on your own with the baby, people ask, “Oh, is it Mom’s night off?”

(Funny how society also uses the phrase, “Dad’s babysitting because it’s mom’s night off.” All woke dads chant: #dadsnotbabysitters #dadsnotbabysitters.)

When my first child was seven weeks old, a friend invited my partner and me to an antique auction in Nowheresville, Connecticut. My first auction. I’m always game for “firsts”.

There were hilarious (shocking) items for sale. Of note was a box of lawn boy/mammy figurines, including a 7-inch Aunt Jemima iron doorstop. Not all of Connecticut is Martha Stewartville.

But I digress.

At the time of serious bidding, when the room hushed and you could cut the tension with a knife, the kiddo got fussy. Of course.

So I walked with my baby bjorn into an adjacent room where a woman sold hot dogs, coffee and cookies.

She had a mullet half way down her back. On her sweatshirt was an airbrushed wolf howling at the moon. It was awesome.

(Not that I’m furthering rural stereotypes, but across the street was a drag racing track.)

Anyway.

She ooh’d and ahh’d over my 7-week-old and marveled at keeping baby quiet. We made small talk about regular baby things: birth weight, sleeping, etc.

Then she asked, “So is this Mom’s night off?”

I kept bouncing, but my eyes went dead. “Um…”

“Or is she just watching the auction?”

Rage boiled within me and I looked at her pointedly. “Mom’s, just…well, she’s just fine.”

Wait, what? “Mom’s just fine”? That was a worse response than Baby’s “I carried a watermelon,” in Dirty Dancing. It lacked any logic, least of all in my emotional response.

I walked away, trying to hide my huff.

Aaaaand…I quickly realized my irrationality.

She had made a reasonable assumption. Of COURSE she’d assume there was a mom nearby. How often do you see gay fathers with newborns? Not very often. And in rural Connecticut? Even less often.

This is something that happens to a lot of gay fathers. I’ve noticed a lot of sleep-deprived fathers already stressed about the pressure of keeping a newborn alive, who’ve gone on Facebook tirades about the assumptions made by others. I think it might be a gay dad rite-of-passage.

But surprisingly for me, I just hadn’t realized being a father would often force me out of the closet to strangers.

Not that I’m closeted, but straight people don’t have to walk around declaring they sleep with the opposite sex. Why must I walk around outing myself all the time?

Also, a lifetime “proving” my straightness to people makes me jittery about being perceived as gay. I know. It’s my own issue. More on that in another blog. Or not.

I needed to chill out and realize that if she went on some tirade about me being a fag-besmirching-Jesus, so be it. To be a good dad, I need to deal with close-mindedness productively, anyway.

I returned to the kitchen area. She was wary.

I said, “I’m really sorry. I haven’t been asked questions about my son’s mom, yet, and it’s bound to happen. Fact is, my partner and I are raising this little boy and he’s watching the auction, right now. And unfortunately he’s buying a useless phonograph that will undoubtedly collect dust and take up space in our already-cramped house.”

Before I could finish my awkward apology, she reached for my hand and nodded warmly.

“I got it. I got it. Before you said anything, I got it. And that’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you. That’s a wonderful thing you’re doing.”

I bought a hot dog from her. It wasn’t Mom’s night off, but it was a very good night for me.

Raising My Kids as Activists: Brainwash ‘Em Young

Raising My Kids as Activists: Brainwash ‘Em Young

I’m raising my kids as activists because I’m petrified of raising children without gratitude…just…entitled little shits who expect gifts, holidays and rights without appreciation for the significance of, well…anything.

And I annoy myself when I feel my feet step onto my own insufferable soap box to preach in response to my kids exhibiting selfishness:

“I don’t WANT to write thank you notes.”

“I don’t WANT to go see Papa walk in the Veteran’s Day Parade!”

“I don’t WANT to do another march.”

 “It’s gonna be boring.”

Pic of a kid sitting and watching a Veteran speak after a Memorial Day march.
One of my kids watching his papa (a Veteran) speak on Memorial Day

And you know what? I’d prefer binging Netflix and eating Lucky Charms straight from the box instead of recognizing historic achievements or trying to change the world, too.

So raising my kids as activists is integral to my parenting because it cultivates appreciation and gratitude.

If nothing more, it’ll help my kids be grateful for the days I DON’T pull their lazy asses out of their routines and force them to stop and think about the world beyond themselves.

In 2019 America, we live in a world of comfort and walk paths of least resistance. Furthermore, my kids are white and middle class, giving them all the more carefree existence.

We don’t come from a long line of money. Our ancestral tree includes two salesmen, three teachers, a labor attorney, three factory workers, a coal miner and several farmers.

Thanks to activism of the last hundred years leading to labor reform, a minimum wage, union protections and education (especially for women), my family is no longer one of subsistence farmers or coal miners. (With all due respect to this demographic, as well. Activism helps them, too!)

Not to mention the fact that I’m a gay father and decades of activism made it possible for me to be a father.

So, yeah – I get preachy about the meaning behind Veterans Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Even Thanksgiving sees me harassing my children about their bounty.

So I drag them to marches.

Pic of author looking stoic and activist-y? Or just annoyed?
The face of pussy hat determination? Or just really annoyed w the kids?

“OMG, what friggin’ things to I need to pack in my bag to keep them tolerable?”

“They’re going to complain the entire time.”

“My shoulders are going to be killing me with these extra water bottles.”

“How big a flask should I bring?”

“Is it wrong for me to make a march a drinking moment?”

“KIDS! YOU MUST POOP, NOW! THERE’LL BE NO PLACE TO POOP ON THE MARCH!”

(That’s a way to sell your kids on activism.)

I began raising my kids as activists by dragging them to the Women’s March in 2017. I knew they would NOT be thrilled. But I prepped their expectations, and went through a familiar refrain: “This is not going to be the most fun day. It might be a bit boring. But this is an important experience in which you’re going to learn. And it’s important you understand we are here because bad things are happening to other people. In this case: women.”

Picture of the author with kids at the Women's March, NYC, 2017
Women’s March 2017, NYC

As for the march, most of the time I was the only one suffering.

Them: “Daddy? When will this be over?”

Me: “You think Gandhi whined about twenty four days it took to march to the sea?”

Them: “Daddy? I’m thirsty.”

Me: “Welp, lucky for you, I have an extra water bottle and tons of snacks. No, wait. Not that water bottle. That’s a flask. Gimme that.”

Them: “Daddy? My feet are tired.”

Me: “Isn’t that too bad? Kids marched on Selma without a stroller.”

Them: “Daddy? This is boring!”

Me: “Tell that to the graves of child laborers who burned to death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.”

* Takes a deep swig from flask.*

I know. I really inspire with fun and humor, don’t I?

This summer, we stood around for five hours waiting to carry the 1,000 foot “River of Rainbow” flag.  Was it insufferably boring to wait five hour before we actually started walking? Indubitably.

Author posing in front of the "River of Rainbow" Pride flag during Pride, 2019, NYC
Hour 2 of 5 waiting to march with the Pride Parade’s “River of Rainbow”

But I’d rather wait five hours and tell my kids to stop whining instead of being persecuted for loving my partner of fifteen years.

My kids remember these marches – not as having been hell, but that they were there.

(Scratch that – they TOTALLY remember it being endless hell.)

So be it.

One day, I hope they’ll remember they were there, they witnessed, they won’t forget their day-out-of-the-ordinary, their…sacrifice (of not being the masters of their own domains for a mere four hours.)

My kids are so lucky – to have been born with money, light skin, to an educated family and in the United States. I will gather them to march for injustice and force-feed their gratitude for not having been born in 1910, or slums in developing nations, or with a skin color making them the target of deplorable, institutional, societal bigotry.

Pic of kids protesting the stupidity of politicians
Protesting stupid politicians

Without activism, powerful, rich white men get all the comforts of life and leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves because the man will always keep the people down; the needs of the rich will always come before the needs of the rest of us and this all needs to change.

So I will raise my kids as activists who understand gratitude – from sacrifices made by veterans giving us national holidays to birthday thank you notes.

I will raise children who maintain their sense of justice – because fairness is a concept children understand better than most adults…and mine will maintain that concept.

Picture of kids with protest posters.
Posing with our “I’m not a Whiner, I’m a PATRIOT!” signs

I will raise my kids as activists because this world needs more gratitude and the fight for justice goes on and on.

And their temporary discomfort just might help them appreciate those lazy mornings with Netflix and Lucky Charms just a bit more.

*** Force-feeding gratitude and justice to my kids is tough. Lecturing to my kids about MLK Jr’s “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is tougher. (One helpful book series is “Ordinary People Change the World” bringing the concept of justice to young readers.)

The Best (and/or Coolest) Diaper Bag for Dads

The Best (and/or Coolest) Diaper Bag for Dads

Am I titling this “The Best (and/or Coolest) Diaper Bag for Dads” and including terms like “cool” and “stylish” within the first sentence to maximize my SEO in a way that makes me seem like I know what “maximizing SEO” means?

Absolutely.

However, I’m serious – this is the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for cool dads and stylish dads.

Amanda Kloots thinks so, and she can do like five-minute-long planks:

Additionally, these folks at TTPM? They’re like deadly serious and they think the bag rocks.

So in addition to these highly-scientific endorsements, and the fact that you’re a new parent, there’s no reason you need to compromise your sense of style. It’ll help your entire parenting mojo.

Just like fashion: it’s all attitude.

Perhaps you feel like rocking a cowboy hat walking down Madison Avenue? Just own it and love yourself for it.

Living their best life. Totes jealous, ain’t ya?

Or maybe it’s your jam to sport pink platform boots with googley eyes on Main Street, (or in this case 28th Street), then dude: werq it.

And the ECKnox Carryall diaper bag is a bag new dads (and moms!) can rock with confidence and attitude.

However, “ECKnox Carryall diaper bag” – that’s a mouth full, isn’t it? I gotta get my team on that.

Quick sidebar with the team:

  • Me: Hey, Team!
  • The Voices in My Head: Yeah?
  • Me: Can we simplify the name?
  • TVIMH: Hm-kay.
  • Me: How about just ‘diaper bag’?
  • TVIMH: But then that might limit your commercial reach.
  • Me: Perhaps, but…
  • TVIMH: Or men might think “dudes don’t carry diaper bags”.
  • Me: Eh, it’s 2019. Plus, that perspective of uninvolved dads is what I’m trying to change.
  • TVIMH: And also, you can remove the liner of your bag and it becomes a cool messenger bag for when parents have outgrown diapers.
  • Me: Right.
  • TVIMH: And isn’t that one of the selling points that justify the price of your bag?
  • Me: Totes.
  • TVIMH: That and the fact that it’s a complicated bag with lots of features and super slick styling and high quality nylon and leather detailing that jacks the price up, too?
  • Me: Do we really need to highlight the pricing, here?
  • TVIMH: Just stating the obvious from the voices in your head. Apparently you have insecurities you need to work out. That’s on you, dude.

Anyway.

When I was expecting my first kid, I wanted a slick, masculine diaper bag that announced, “I’m proud to be a new dad and I want to look good being that dad.” But in all my research, I couldn’t find such a bag.

I thought about it for another year, had another kid, and but still was confounded that such a bag didn’t exist.

So I set out to make it, myself – a bag with sophistication, super functionality, and timeless styling.

Something that made people say, “Wow. Nice bag. I wonder what it is? Oh, wait a minute! That’s that designer diaper bag for dads. Ohhhh…he’s a new dad! Ahhhh.”

And all hearts would melt on the subway/playground/street/hottest-new-brunch-restaurant-in-the-trendiest-neighborhood.

(Lucky for you, I wrote about my journey here and here but also here and moreover here.)

Do I harbor the illusion that men are going to flock to buy bags for themselves? In some cases, yes. But don’t worry, I’m not delusional – this bag is branded for men and marketed to the women who will be 70% of the purchasers.

So.

Why’s this the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for stylish dads?

Form and function.

The features:

This is the best diaper bag for dads because it has 14 pockets.

How can you go wrong? This is also the best diaper bag for dads because two of those pockets are for bottles and it’s REALLY the best diaper bag for dads because one of those bottle holders accommodates a bottle of wine for those particularly tough days on the playground. (Might want to get your own paper bag to protect your assets while drinking in a playground, though.)

This is the best diaper bag for dads because there are frequently no changing stations in men’s rooms.

So I made it the best diaper bag for dads because there’s a zip-open changing station for those times there’s no changing station in the restroom. However, there might be times you can’t be bothered to leave the playground; in which case you wanna show your parenting badassery by changing your kid’s diaper on the playground like a BOSS (who’s not overly freaked out about germs. Because kids are petri dishes. Make peace with the germs. It builds character and resilience and immunity.)

This is the best diaper bag for dads because there’s a padded laptop sleeve.

Not only is there a laptop sleeve that makes this the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for dads, but there are also three sleeves in which you can stow wallets, phones, pens, sunglasses and those quick-access things you just don’t feel like carrying in your pockets (cuz your ass looks better in your pants when you aren’t carrying bulky things. More on that at another time.)

The best diaper bag for dads has mesh pockets inside the liner so you can organize how you want, but see what’s in the pocket.

The coolest diaper bag for dads would have to be easy to clean, so we made it that way. The liner is removable with a hidden zipper. That way, you can wash the liner and even replace it (INSERT LINK FOR NEW LINERS, HERE. OOPS – however I need first to design and manufacture replaceable liners and THEN insert the link for purchase).

Furthermore, what REALLY makes this the best diaper bag for dads is once the liner is removed, there’s an inner liner that’s slick and black and professional, so you can continue to use the bag for years as a messenger bag after you’re done with the diapering.

You can also quickly convert the bag to a backpack (which many bags can do, but they aren’t the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for dads.)

Finally (and seriously, y’all…this is my favorite feature) what makes this the best (and/or coolest) diaper bag for dads is the instant access to wet wipes.

Through an interior pocket open with a magnetized flap, you can be friggin’ Oprah on the playground.

  • You want a wet wipe? Boom. Here ya go.
  • Need a wet wipe? Boom. Here, Daddy.
  • Ahhhh…forgot your wet wipes? Boom. Here ya go, Mommy.
  • You definitely need a wet wipe, snot-nosed kid whose mom is buried in her phone and isn’t paying attention to the fact that her kid is wiping snot and kid pink eye all over the monkey bars.
  • Oh, and you need a wet wipe, son. Yes, you do, kid. Come here. Please come here, now. Right here to Daddy. Come, right – Junior? Come here right now and make Daddy look good so the other parents on the playground don’t judge him for being just another helicopter parent whose kids don’t actually mind him at all. Junior? One. Two. Don’t make me get to three. Two and a half. Two and three quarters. Boom Here’s your wet wipe.

There ya have it, folks. The best and coolest diaper bag for dads.

And in no way is this bag just meant for dads. All my girlfriends say “why would you only make this for dads? I’d totally carry this. I never liked my stupid pink, puffy bag!”

Exactly, ladies. You’re invited, too. But I started the company to cater to, well, me.

And I’m an only-child actor. So my needs come first.

Lemme sell a few bags, establish my brand, and bring a ton of other really cool things to market to expand into a lifestyle brand, and then this bag will be all about the gender-nonspecific stylish parenting.

For now? I gotta grow my niche.

Won’t you help?

Buy a bag.

It’s an investment that’ll make you feel good inside and out for years to come.

Can any other bag do that for you?

Nope. Because they’re not the best and/or coolest diaper bag for stylish dads.