As Hong Kong moves to ban LGBTIQ+ themed titles from public libraries, we asked Australian author Jo Hirst to share some of her favourite children's books.
Samuel Leighton-Dore

22 Jun 2018 - 12:03 PM  UPDATED 22 Jun 2018 - 12:07 PM

Following months of pressure from a local anti-gay group, Hong Kong has this week pulled ten children's books featuring LGBTIQ+ themes from display in its public libraries.

The move followed a concerted effort by the Sexual Orientation Ordinance Concern Group, who yesterday took to social media to celebrate the win.

“Over the past few months, we have conveyed to Home Affairs Bureau, through correspondence and public action, our concern about the possession of homosexual and cross-gender children’s books in public libraries,” the group, which claims to be made up of concerned “parents, teachers and other Hong Kong citizens” wrote in a post on Facebook.

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The Home Affairs Bureau responded, insisting that titles would not be banned outright, but held in "closed shelves" where they would be available upon request.

"In order to ensure that children are properly guided by reading, the books are stored in closed shelves, and all branches have just completed the arrangements for holding closed shelves, that is, individual readers will be required to visit their staff," they said in statement.

“When parents choose suitable reading and reading for their children, they are free to choose whether they can read books and give proper guidance or interpretation to children.”

The children's books affected include Molly’s Family, Introducing Teddy, Daddy and Papa and Me, Mommy, Mama and Me, The Family Book, The Boy in the Dress and Milly, Molly.

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Speaking ahead of the launch of her second book, A House for Everyone, Australian author and mum Jo Hirst told SBS Sexuality that "all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read."

"It is fundamentally important for our trans, gender diverse children to have positive representation and references of gender roles in their lives," she said.

She added: "In an era when we are striving for greater gender equity, all children benefit from the freedom from rigid gender stereotypes."

We asked Hirst, who also wrote children's book The Gender Fairy, to share some of her favourite LGBTIQ+ themed titles for children and young people.

1. Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?

Written by Sarah Savage, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? follows the story of Tiny - a young person who prefers not to tell other children whether they are a boy or a girl.

Featuring a gender neutral protagonist, the book has been celebrated for imparting "an important message about identity and being who you want to be" and "giving children the space to express themselves fully, explore different identities and have fun at the same time."

The book is available here.

2. Who Are You?

Written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, Who are you? is a "straightforward introduction to gender for anyone" over the age of five years old.

A wonderful resource for parents, the colourfully illustrated book presents "clear and direct language for understanding and talking about how we experience gender: our bodies, our expression and our identity".

The book is available here.

3. The Prince and the Frog

Written by Olly Pike, this is an endearingly modern take on a classic fairytale, teaching children about same-sex relationships and attraction.

The book is pegged as "exploring what it means to be in a healthy, loving relationship" while encouraging children to "listen to others, be kind, and embrace diversity and equality."

Sound good? The book is available in hardcover here.

4. Introducing Teddy

A beloved classic, Introducing Teddy was written by Jessica Walton and gently introduces young readers to understanding themes of gender identity and transition in an "accessible and heart-warming story about being true to yourself and being a good friend".

"This is a wonderful book that is easy to use with young children," one customer wrote. "Such a sweet story. Thank you to the authors."

The book is available here.