Melissa is a girl but no one else knows she is, as it was assumed at birth she was a boy. As a result, she was given the name of George. Melissa is her secret name, admitted only to herself. We are introduced to Melissa while her 4th grade classroom is reading Charlotte’s Web. Melissa is moved to tears when Charlotte dies and the boys in her class begin jeering at her for being so sensitive. Melissa being teased for not being “boy” enough is a common occurrence. Fortunately, she has a best friend named Kelly who likes her just the way she is.
The class will be putting on a production of Charlotte’s Web for the younger grades. Melissa wants to be Charlotte more than anything but Charlotte is considered a girl part. She is expected to audition for one of boy roles, Wilbur, Templeton, or Mr. Zuckerman. None of them appeal the way Charlotte does and Melissa is not interested in plaything anyone else. Melissa confides her desire to play Charlotte to Kelly. Kelly, and her father, are immediately supportive and Melissa practices Charlotte’s lines at their home. This support leads Melissa to admit that she is a girl to Kelly. Kelly even helps Melissa spend a day at the zoo presented to the world as the girl she knows she is inside.
When the time to audition comes, Melissa has memorized Charlottes lines and is ready to wow her teacher. However, the teacher is shocked and refuses to consider Melissa for the part, perceiving her as a boy and therefore not suitable for the role. Melissa is crushed and ends up assisting backstage. Kelly is given he role but feels that Melissa is better and schemes a way for Melissa to perform Charlotte.
In the end, Melissa finds that she has an ally in her older brother and school principal. That her mother wants to understand and loves her unconditionally. Melissa is filled with hope and joy that she can begin living openly the way she has always felt inside.
This is a beautiful story. It is an excellent introduction for what it means to be transgender. I truly believe it should be required reading material for students in the 4th to 6th grade range to open them to the trans experience. It also accurately represents the flexibility in thinking that children have. It’s no big deal for Kelly that the friend she previously perceived to be a boy is actually a girl. I’ve seen this in my own life. A childhood friend of my daughter is transgender. We were introduced to her as a boy at the age of two but at the start of kindergarten she began living as the girl she always was. My daughter didn’t miss a beat in the gender switch and it was no big deal. Nothing about her friend had actually changed other than the pronouns and she rolled with that no problem. Watching that child flourish once living as a girl was truly heartwarming.
I have many thoughts and feelings about transgender, and all LGBTQIA, people and how they are treated in society and by governing bodies but this isn’t the place. Just know that I am a staunch ally and will always support and vote for people to live their lives as who they are.