When my eldest, Charlie, turned 13 last year, I was expecting the usual teenage dramas: mood swings, friendship problems, spots! But Charlie told me she was transgender. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. Charlie had always been a dramatic child with a flair for dressing up and art. When Charlie presented as a boy he would always pick perceived girls’ clothes and toys. Charlie always chose to watch films about princesses and play with girls. I always assumed, wrongly, Charlie was probably gay. Being transgender was not even on my radar.
When Charlie told me her news I felt out of my depth. I knew nothing about being transgender. I was not prepared for this. But I was lucky. My oldest friend’s daughter was friends with a beautiful trans girl a few years older than Charlie. We met with her and her wonderful mum. We had a 4-hour chat, where Charlie felt validated and I realised how all this made complete sense for my child. With support from the LGBTQ centre in Leicester we were referred to the Tavistock. Charlie’s school, Lutterworth College were open, honest and encouraging. In October 2016 Charlie began living fully as a girl at school. She has been living as her true self at home since that summer.
Overall people have been amazing, with just a few friends lost on the way as they couldn’t accept or understand. I also have a 5-year-old daughter, Tabitha. It was tricky explaining to her what was happening with her sister. I also knew from my 21year teaching career that there were not any suitable books to help explain. So, I wrote a story about a cat called Fred who was born a girl but inside was a boy. Tabitha loved it and it helped make sense of what was happening with her sister. It got me thinking about other diverse family situations.
I stared to write other stories where the families were different and diverse, many featuring LGBTQ characters. Gentle stories set in love, respect and acceptance. I also completed over 300 illustrations to accompany the stories. Rainbow Street was born. In the red house is Fred, whose story explains what it means to be transgender. Next in the orange house is The Dandelion Dormice who sleep through most of the year and miss lots of celebrations. In the yellow house is Mustard and Custard, a same sex couple who love each other very much. In the green house is Basil and Sage, a single dad and his son. Granny Frogsbottom and the triplets are behind the green door. Peggy Clover is in the indigo house living alone because she likes it that way. And lastly in the violet house are Lilac and Mauve who want to be mummies, so they adopt.
I searched for a publisher who was open-minded enough to embrace stories with LGBTQ characters. After several attempts I found my fantastic publisher Paul Johnson at Your Stories Matter. Rainbow Street will be published December 11th 2017. I want Rainbow Street to help break down barriers and create acceptance and understanding of all diverse families. I want Rainbow Street to help build a better world for all children, especially LGBTQ children like my daughter. To help support teachers I have created free, yes free, lesson plans and resources to accompany all my books. They will be available on my website www.rainbowstreetbooks.com. I openly encourage people to get in touch via twitter: NickRolfe@RainbowSt and let me know what they think to Rainbow Street or if they have any ideas for more stories. Let me welcome you personally to Rainbow Street!!