One of Australia’s best known authors will be in Bendigo tomorrow to put transgender issues on the agenda for regional areas.
Hazel Edwards, most famous for her picture book There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, will talk with local school students about her lesser-known work, f2m: the boy within.
The young adult fiction novel was co-written with family friend Ryan Kennedy, who underwent a transition from female to male.
Although she has written a staggering 200 books, Ms Edwards counts this as her “most significant” work.
She said it was “immensely important” for regional areas to come to terms with gender diversity and books were an effective way to talk about potentially confronting issues.
“One of the first things we did (when the book was published four years ago) was to have a regional phone link to Gippsland, because one of the librarians in that regional area had asked if we could talk to their local youth,” Ms Edwards said.
“Fiction enables you to tell a story, and a story is always a better way of opening up a discussion.”
She said she had been approached by those who were thankful for her shedding a light on the challenges transgender people face, and the book had helped them and their families to cope.
“There are many different viewpoints – one is the mother who feels the grief of losing her daughter although she's gained a son,” Ms Edwards said.
“For somebody who is transitioning gender, which is a biological necessity, why make it harder?”
“It takes so much courage, and a lot of finances and emotional support.”
“I’ve always been into the theme of coping successfully with being different.”
“There’s a lot of humor in the book too – that’s the important thing, it’s not something frightening.”
The novel was nominated for an International White Raven’s Award, but Ms Edwards had also seen an English teacher throw the book in the bin and tell a classroom not the read it.
“Some of the schools were very apprehensive, but once they read it, they were recommending it,” she said.
“(In the LGBTQA community) I was greeted with a great deal of respect and relief that a mainstream writer had tackled a subject such as this.”
Hazel Edwards will speak with school groups today and is part of the Authorpreneur session on Saturday.
The Bendigo Writers Festival runs until Sunday and boasts a quality line up with more than 70 literary events.