Why Do We Need LGBTQ Books for Kids?

This is not a coming-out story. I’ve never had to have the kind of courage it takes to come out. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s experience by sharing my story; I’m telling it only to illustrate why Popinjay Press is so important to me. And why it’s important for all of us to see LGBTQ representation from a young age. 

When I was in 7th grade, I worried I was gay. Let’s break that down: When I was just a kid, I was anxious and depressed about something that should have been a nonissue. But in 1995, it wasn’t a nonissue; it was a big problem. Back then, kids threw around homophobic slurs as casually as they threw back Surge. And woe be it to the kid who called anyone out on their behavior lest they be labeled gay, themselves. 

I didn’t even know what it meant to be gay until 7th grade. When I found out, I remember walking through the halls of middle school, heart pounding, frantically searching for a boy to have a crush on. But I wasn’t attracted to any of them, unlike my boy-crazy gal pals who lived for the opposite sex. I was convinced there was something very, very wrong with me. 

“I think I might be gay,” I finally confided in my big sister.

"Why do you think that?" she asked.

"Because I don't like boys."

"Do you like girls?"


“Maybe you are; maybe you aren't," she shrugged. "So what?”


I could feel the tension draining from my shoulders. Maybe I was gay, but so what? My sister would still love me. Now I could go back to worrying about other normal junior high things, like school shootings and the meth crisis.

I’m sad and embarrassed for that ignorant kid who thought being gay was a terrible thing, and I work every day to make up for that skewed way of thinking. 

But I’m even more heartbroken for the kids who really were gay and made to feel ashamed of it. Imagine if, growing up, we’d seen LGBTQ characters in TV shows, movies and books! Imagine openly talking about LGBTQ issues in our schools, homes, families and friend groups! Imagine feeling normal in our awkward tween hearts about something that is normal! What a novel idea. 

How can LGBTQ books for kids benefit everyone?

L.D. Lapinski, author of The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency trilogy, wrote, “…for many, the first queer book they remember reading, they didn’t pick up until their late teens. That’s a lot of life to go through without ever seeing yourself on the page of a novel.”1 

For children to feel connected and validated, they need to see themselves represented in the media they consume. Exposing children to a diverse array of characters, family dynamics and social structures helps them recognize that every situation is different while also highlighting the many common values, beliefs and traditions we all share.  

According to Accredited Schools Online, “Cisgender students gain an unbiased and more thorough understanding of the LGBTQ community while learning how to promote acceptance; LGBTQ students receive validation of their experiences, sexual orientations and gender identities and find a safe space to express their opinions and values.”2

What’s the story? 

While there are more and more books available with LGBTQ families, it’s critical to consider nuances — like making sure the LGBTQ aspect of the story isn’t the story. This small distinction can have a big impact on small children. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, “There is still a shortage of well-written and illustrated books that just happen to have children with LGBTQ+ parents…. Historically, many of the books written for children that include two moms or two dads have focused on a problem that children have encountered because they have two moms or dads…. Books that highlight problems may actually introduce negative concepts that young children do not already have.”3

Lapinski agrees that the story is the most important part of LGBTQ books for kids: “I wanted to read, and to write, stories about kids whose identity was not a factor in the plot of their adventure,” Lapinski wrote. “They are having adventures and learning to use magic, just like their straight and cisgender counterparts have been doing all along.”1

Not everyone has a big sister who loves and supports them enough to say, “So what?” With that simple phrase, she normalized something for me that should have been normalized a long time ago. Popinjay Press books exist to be a “So what?” for kids who don’t have a big sister like mine.

So what if you have two moms? So what if you don’t like boys? So what if your pronouns are “they/them”? You’re worthy just the way you are, and you deserve a place in literature too. That’s why we need LGBTQ books for kids.

"It is important for children to see their reality reflected to them through the literature that is available." — Human Rights Campaign Foundation


  1. Lapinski, L.D. (2021). Why we need LGBTQ+ characters in children's books. Book Trust. Retrieved June 2, 2022. https://www.booktrust.org.uk/news-and-features/features/2021/april/why-we-need-lgbtq-characters-in-childrens-books/
  2. Creating inclusive classrooms for students of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Accredited Schools Online. Retrieved June 2, 2022. https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/education-teaching-degree/lgbtq-youth/
  3. Reading LGBTQ-Inclusive Children’s Books in Schools. Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Retrieved June 2, 2022. https://welcomingschools.org/resources/using-lgbtq-inclusive-childrens-books