Move Over, Cinderella: This Transgender Princess Proves Dreams Really Do Come True
Flip through the first few pages of The Royal Heart, and it looks much like beloved fairy tales read to children around the world. In a faraway land, a king and queen celebrate the birth of a child who will grow to rule the kingdom. But the book skips power-hungry sea witches and evil stepmothers to zero in on an inner conflict: gender identity.
“There is no villain in this story,” author Greg McGoon wrote in an email to TakePart. “If you were to find one, it would be one’s own self-doubt.” In McGoon’s book, Prince Lyric was born male but identifies as female and is afraid to share his gender identity with his family.
A magical encounter with the spirit of his grandmother, the former queen, allows Lyric to transform into Princess Lyra in a Cinderella-like moment. But instead of singing “Bippity-boppity-boo,” the enchanted grandmother whispers, “Thy true self be seen.” When Lyra returns home and presents herself as a young woman to the king and queen, they readily accept her as their daughter. The book ends with the family living “happily, with love,” McGoon’s updated take on “happily ever after.”
The Royal Heart isn’t the first children’s book to feature LGBT characters, but McGoon notes that for the three- to eight-year-old crowd his book is geared toward, the story lines typically feature modern settings free of princes and princesses.
“I’ve worked with children for years doing theater and art workshops, and royalty is still such a common topic that young children want to play and dress up as,” McGoon said. He hopes children who may not be able to relate to Princess Jasmine or Snow White can identify with Princess Lyra. “This book can be [a] tool to allow someone to express themselves.”
But the author doesn’t want to limit the story to solely a LGBT audience. “For non-transgender children, it is still valuable for them to read and experience this story in case they meet someone who might struggle with gender identity, and maybe this will be a stepping stone toward acceptance,” said McGoon. With nearly 75 percent of LGBT children experiencing some form of bullying, lessons of inclusion and tolerance could prove valuable.
So far, the book’s reception has been overwhelmingly positive, with prominent LGBT actors Laverne Cox and Alan Cummings offering their praise. McGoon plans for Princess Lyra’s story to be the first in a collection of children’s tales featuring LGBT characters. His next fairy tale will focus on the love story of a gay prince.