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Rainbow Street - understanding that all families are different

Rainbow Street - understanding that all families are differentNick Rolfe's teenage transgender daughter has been living as her true self for over a year now, but Nick found it a struggle to explain the concept of transgender to her younger 5-year-old daughter, so created Rainbow Street.

Rainbow Street is a series of 7 books aimed at 4 to 6 year old children, using colourful pictures of animals to tell stories of gender identity. They all share the common theme of acceptance and could equally be used at home and in school to discuss all forms of difference and diversity. The aim is to make gender diversity no big deal and no different to accepting and respecting ethnic diversity, religious diversity and forms of neurodiversity. Stories in the series cover topics ranging from gender identity and adoption by same-sex parents, through to single fatherhood and it being ok to live alone in old age.

Nick Rolfe, author of the Rainbow Street series of books"One of my earliest memories of Charlie is at Christmas. Charlie was three and we had gone to visit Santa and Charlie had asked for a Barbie. Santa had hidden his surprise well and offered Charlie a present from the boy’s sack. Charlie had looked up at me and asked to pick from the girl’s sack knowing that any of the presents in the pink sack would be a better choice. This was typical behaviour of Charlie always choosing the more girly toys, books and films. Charlie always played with girls and all her friends were girls. On toy day at school Charlie would take in dolls and dressing up clothes. Charlie was a maternal, caring, sensitive and dramatic child.
I had no problem with Charlie choosing what he wanted to as a child. Charlie was free to be whatever they wanted. I just thought Charlie was probably going to be gay. Looking back, I feel a bit silly I never even considered transgender.
In August 2016 Charlie told me she thought she was transgender. She had been asking lots of questions about people’s lifestyles and sexualities over the summer and had been building up to this big announcement. I still had not expected her to say she was transgender.
Following a meeting with a beautiful trans girl called Ciera who was around the same age as Charlie and her Mum, Charlie confirmed that she was transgender. During the conversation I recognised so much of my child in Ciera that it all started to make perfect sense.
We contacted the local LGBTQ centre in Leicester where they run a Teen Transgender group. Charlie felt supported and validated at the group. Lisa Vine who runs the group referred us to The Tavistock. We had our first appointment in January 2017.

Charlies school The Lutterworth College were amazing, supportive and caring. They gave an assembly to explain what being transgender meant before Charlie had transitioned at school fully as her true self in the October
I never felt a sense of loss for a son at all. Charlie was still very much Charlie. The essence of Charlie has never changed her outside now just matches her inside. She has always been a girl.

It was a tricky time explaining to family and friends what was happening. Some family members struggled to accept often through fear and misunderstanding. We lost some old friends, but most people were open and supportive.
Charlie has a younger sister, Tabitha, and it was difficult explaining to her what was happening with her sister. I was a Primary school teacher of 21 years and I knew there wasn’t any stories or resources which would help explain. So, I decided to write a little story about a cat, called Fred, who was born a boy but was a girl inside. Tab loved the story and readily accepted what was happening with her sister.

Nick and the Rainbow Street books she wrote and illustratedAfter writing Fred it got me thinking about other diverse families I had met over my teaching career. It is important that children recognise themselves and others in books. I created a street where all families could live on and be accepted; Rainbow street was born. There are seven families altogether on Rainbow Street; Fred, Mustard and Custard (a same sex couple), Dandelion Dormice (who sleep through most of the year so don’t celebrate lots of occasions), Peggy Clover (who chooses to live alone), Basil and Sage (single Dad and his son), Lilac and Mauve (a same sex couple who adopt so they can be mummies) and Granny Frogsbottom (a Grandparent raising Triplets). All the stories are very gentle and set in a foundation of love and acceptance. I also created over 300 collage illustrations to accompany the stories. I have already written the next seven stories including one about a step family, a young mum and a bat who wants fairy wings!

After a search for a publisher who would be open minded to accept stories with LGBTQ characters I found the wonderful Your Stories Matter in May 2017 who promote stories which break down barriers for children and celebrate diversity. The stories are published December 11th 2017.
I am aiming to go into schools with the books and deliver workshops for children and training for teachers. I have created a free series of 20 lesson plans with resources linked to The PSHE Association’s objectives which accompany the books available on my web site www.rainbowstreetbooks.com.

Charlie has a tricky path ahead of her and I am going to support her in any way I can. I am hoping through Rainbow Street I can do my little bit to make the world a more accepting tolerant place for all LGBTQ children."

For more information about the The Rainbow Street books visit www.rainbowstreetbooks.com and Amazon.co.uk.

W: www.rainbowstreetbooks.com
Twitter: NickRolfe@RainbowSt


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+1 #2 AlicePt 2018-02-04 08:10
I loved this article and how well the transgender situation is explained thought Fred ! It is a reality and we all eventually may have to face it and deal with it some how ! Thank you and I shall share with people that may be going though difficult times ! Obrigada
+1 #1 Nick Rolfe 2018-01-31 17:45
Thank you so much for covering my story.
I welcome people getting in touch. I am on twitter, Linked in and Facebook

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