Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



Author reflects on new trans kids' book and his own journey
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

This article shared 2591 times since Wed Apr 6, 2016
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

"My thought was there needed to be a book for kids that talked about what happens physically when someone transitions," said first-time author and transgender activist/advocate Jenson Hillenbrand of his new book—Parts & Hearts: A Kids ( & Grownups ) Guide to Transgender Transition. "Kids deserve to have age appropriate, accurate information about their bodies— including knowing where babies come from, what puberty is and what the proper terms are when referring to their body parts."

Hillenbrand—who was born and raised in Frankfort, Illinois—received his bachelor's degree in fine arts from Columbia College Chicago and his master's degree in special education from the University of Phoenix. He currently lives in Lombard, Illinois.

Prior to writing the book, Hillenbrand spent a number of years as a restaurant manager and later teaching special needs kids.

"My mom became terminally ill about five years ago, so I started taking care of her full-time until her death two years ago," said Hillenbrand. "It was during that time that I began my transition. Prior to both of my parent's deaths, I spoke to them about my gender identity and they said do what you need to do to be happy. I wish they were both here to see my transition but knowing that they loved and supported me before they died is a really nice memory to have. I have an older sister and both she and my extended family have also been supportive."

Hillenbrand said he looks up to Chaz Bono, who also transitioned at age 40.

One of the reasons why Hillenbrand decided to write the book is due to his role as a Sunday school teacher and special needs teacher. When Hillenbrand transitioned, the parents in his circle asked him how they should explain that Auntie Jen is now Uncle Jen.

"I searched online and went to Howard Brown to try and find resources for the parents and kids in my life and I couldn't find a single thing," said Hillenbrand. "Everything was for adults. There were a handful of trans children's books but they were stories in support of trans children."

When asked why he chose Parts & Hearts as the title of his book, Hillenbrand said, "It refers to the last paragraph of the book which says 'No matter how anyone may change on the outside, the most important thing to remember is that in the end, it's not the parts of people's bodies that make them who we love; it's what's in their hearts, and that never changes.' The parts of our bodies can change but what's in our hearts doesn't change and that's what we love about a person, what's in their heart."

Hillenbrand chose artist and illustrator, Quinlan Omahne, to do the book's illustrations. Omahne was introduced to Hillenbrand through his friend of 30 years, Lance Ehlers. Both Omahne and Ehlers previously worked together at MTV in New York City.

"I wanted something that would stand the test of time in terms of the illustrations and he delivered," said Hillenbrand. "I asked him to make one or two changes to the illustrations, but other than that he's had full control over the look of the book and has also designed my website, []. He's an absolutely amazing artist."

"With the transgender community slowly beginning to gain visibility, I was elated when Jenson pitched me the idea for his book," said Omahne. "I wanted to create illustrations that everyone could relate to by using welcoming colors and simple shapes. I would say my greatest challenge working on this project was figuring out how to ensure the end result would resonate with both children and adults alike. Whether I achieved that or not is up to the reader, but nonetheless, it's rewarding enough to know that I had a hand in transgender education."

As for the response to the book, Hillenbrand noted that he's gotten great feedback from a cross-section of society who told him it's well-written and has just enough information.

"I only got one negative response and it was from an LGBT bookstore in San Francisco," said Hillenbrand. "They said I was 15 years behind the times with my terminology because I used gender pronouns. They also asked why I didn't address those who are genderqueer or other gender identity names and what they mean."

When asked if he would continue writing books, Hillenbrand said, "I'd like to write a book that explores the nitty-gritty of transitioning. It would be a lay person's guide to transitioning catered toward academics and medical people."

Recently, Hillenbrand spoke at his niece and nephew's high school's ( Wheaton-Warrenville South ) gay-straight alliance. About 125 students—a dozen of whom identified as trans—attended the talk.

"As someone who feels strongly about things as far as the little ones—including teenagers—are concerned if there's one kid that gets the answers they're looking for then I'll consider that a victory," said Hillenbrand."I want this to be a national success, like Jennifer Has Two Daddies and Heather Has Two Mommies. I think every kid in America should read my book and it should be in every library.

"I want my book to be a part of the national conversation to help inch us toward understanding, empathy and compassion on the issue of being transgender and to bridge the gaps that people might have about the transition process so we can create a better society."

On June 21, Hillenbrand will be speaking to the Children's Gender and Sex Development Program teen transgender group at Lurie Children's Hospital and will also be appearing at Gender Odyssey in Seattle as a vendor/workshop presenter on Aug. 4-7.

"My hope is to have as many opportunities as possible to read this book out loud to kids," said Hillenbrand.

To contact Hillenbrand, visit and .

This article shared 2591 times since Wed Apr 6, 2016
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

BOOKS Twelfth (and final) 'Boystown' cover revealed 2021-10-17
- Boystown author Jake Biondi has revealed the cover of the twelfth book of his series—while simultaneously sharing that the next installment will be the final one. Boystown: Season Twelve: The Final Season will be released in ...

Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Activist Peter Staley's Memoir 'Never Silent' is a real-life thriller 2021-10-13
--From - "Attention must be paid to such a man." — Arthur Miller Peter Staley's much-anticipated new memoir, Never Silent, opens with almost unbearable nail-biting suspense, sweeping us into the behind-the-scenes machinations of an ACT UP takeover of ...

Gay News

Achy Obejas' bilingual poetry book Boomerang/Bumeran explores immigration, liberation 2021-10-11
By Max Lubbers - Achy Obejas is a Cuban-American writer, translator and activist. Boomerang/Bumerán, her newest book, confronts questions of immigration, love and liberation. Like a boomerang, these ideas return throughout the collection, even ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Victory Institute, LGBTQ books, youth items, NASA, LGBTQ Nation 2021-10-10
- LGBTQ Victory Institute and nine additional candidate-training organizations announced a partnership with Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, to provide a native-to-mobile tool to encourage young people to run for office, a press release noted. ...

Gay News

Book about musician Tori Amos' works coming out 2021-10-07
- The book Tori Amos: every album, every song—by rock journalist Lisa Torem—will be out in the United States on Friday, Oct. 29, courtesy of Sonic Bond Publishing. In 1992, Amos—an acclaimed singer, pianist and composer—achieved fame ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Thirteen Days 2021-09-29
- Thirteen Days. adapted by Brian Pastor from the book by Robert F. Kennedy At: City Lit Theatre at Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1030 West Bryn Mawr Ave., Tickets: $27-$32. Runs through: Oct. 24 Palace Intrigue has been ...

Gay News

Lambda Literary to expand LGBTQ Writers in Schools Program in New York City schools 2021-09-27
--From a press release - New York, NY — Today, Lambda Literary announced that New York City has quadrupled its investment in the organization's LGBTQ Writers in Schools program, increasing funding from $100,000 to $400,000 to reach 10,000 students and provide ...

Gay News

Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson on new book, 'Our Fair Share' 2021-09-22
- In Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson's new book, Our Fair Share: How One Small Change Can Create a More Equitable American Economy, he posits that receiving a Citizen Dividend will help all U.S. residents achieve ...

Gay News

BOOKS 'Mission Possible' released before 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' anniversary 2021-09-20
- C. Dixon Osburn, co-founder and former CEO of the Servicmembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), has written Mission Possible: The Story of the Repealing 'Don't Ask Don't Tell. This is the inside story of SLDN, which was ...

Gay News

Women & Children First hosting virtual event with Anita Hill on Sept. 29 2021-09-11
- Anita Hill—the University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's and Gender Studies at Brandeis University who played a major role in the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas—will be part ...

Gay News

Chicago Literary Hall of Fame announces 2021 class of new inductees 2021-08-18
--From a press release - Chicago, August 17, 2021 — The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame (CLHOF) announced that its 2021 Class of Inductees will include Frank London Brown, Jeanette Howard Foster, Carlos Cortez, and Gene Wolfe. The inductees will be ...

Gay News

Chicago-area author releases book about gay, autistic African-American 2021-08-18
- PenPower Book Marketing Services and Chicago-area author Jaire Sims have released his debut young adult novel, Getting By, which was named a finalist in the African American (Fiction) category in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book ...

Gay News

Printers Row Lit Fest returns to Chicago Sept. 11-12 2021-08-12
--From a press release - CHICAGO (August 12, 2021) Printers Row Lit Fest, the largest free outdoor literary showcase in the Midwest, returns for its 36th year with 100% free programming for book lovers the weekend after Labor Day, Saturday, Sept. ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Rent 2021-08-10
- Playwright: book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson At: Possibilities Theatre Company at NorthCenter Town Square, 4100 N. Damen Ave. Tickets: suggested donation $20; or ...

Gay News

Equality Illinois' new deputy director talks goals, position and books 2021-08-01
- On July 15, Mony Ruiz-Velasco officially started in the new position of Equality Illinois' deputy director. Ruiz-Velasco is an experienced attorney who has worked for immigrants rights for many years, and has even been the legal ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.