This is How it Always Is, written by Laurie Frankel is based loosely on her own experiences of raising a transgender child. Claude is born a boy child and raised in a family with four other brothers, a mum and a dad. Claude shows signs from an early age that being female is a more natural and comfortable gender for her, which the family supports. Watching Claude transition to Poppy, the happiness this creates for her, but also the responses of community and friends, and within the family gives an insight into how difficult transition is for all.
Poppy is such a happy child, and so aware that she is different, but also of her own need to be female. The family response, which is always supportive but definitely questioning, seeking support and dealing with their own confusion over what is the best way forward is covered in such beautiful detail by Laurie Frankel. The judgement faced by the family, especially Poppy and her parents, the ‘lies’ the family are forced to tell to protect Poppy and the impact this family secret has on the siblings is again really well thought out and written about.
Having had friends who have transitioned as adults, it made me reflect on how different their lives may have been if the support offered to Poppy was offered to them at such a young age. Transition would never be easy, but to know from a young age that your family will always be a safe haven and respectful and embracing of choices, as is Poppy’s, would have a big effect. I did find the novel a bit long winded in parts, the inclusion of the fairy tale, as told by the father, I didn’t find that engaging, but I imagine it would appeal to others.
Having books like this on the shelf, which will challenge many people is so important. Transgender and the issue of transitioning is becoming less taboo in society, but education, understanding and learning to accept is necessary, and books like this support that. hopefully people will pick this up and learn that it is not easy, fun or a decision taken lightly by parents whose children are transgender.