By Kayla Higgins
Ryerson theatre grad Catherine Hernandez released a children’s book about queer families raising children on Oct. 1 of this year.
Hernandez, an award-winning queer Toronto author and actor, published I Promise, a 28-page children’s book about how queer families start with the promise to love a child unconditionally.
I Promise is described as a book that “captures the honest and intimate moments of queer parenting in all their messy glory” and “affirms that famillies come in many shapes, sizes and colours.”
“I wanted to turn that conversation about the birds and the bees on its head because, for queer folks, that conversation is vastly different from family to family than for cisgender and heterosexual people,” said Hernandez. “I really wanted it to be lyrical and easy to read for when you’re about to put your kid to bed.”
The book touches on the myriad of factors that go into parenting, and the variety that each household experiences. “You might have a single parent, different dads and moms, people who are completely non-binary and don’t identify with any gender, or even a large group of people that are raising a child, and then you might have people that foster or adopt,” said Hernandez. “All of those possibilities are explored in the pages of the book.”
For Hernandez, being queer isn’t simply an identity but a way of life—a philosophy that remains present throughout I Promise. “It’s a way that we move through the world. It’s how we earn money, how we create families, love,” she said “To me, [being queer] is more of a verb than a label.”
Hernandez said she believes it’s up to parents to educate their kids on queer communities and body language is an integral part of leading that conversation.
“Those first few years of their life is a very important time…they’re going to be learning their politics around who deserves to live and love and work and who doesn’t,” she said. Often parents don’t realize the weight of their actions and body language, according to Hernandez. “If they’re looking left and right, not wanting to shake hands and acting as if we have some kind of disease, all of these things are cues that they see.”
Hernandez added that parents and caregivers must first work on themselves before informing their own children about the queer community. “Go back to the time where your uncle told you that men wearing skirts are wrong, or nail polish is only for sissies. Whatever your backstory is, put it down on a piece of paper, burn it and move on.”
Hernandez is also the author of children’s book M is for Moustache, the story of her own child and their experience at Pride.
“The big question that I always get is ‘When is it appropriate to bring my kid to Pride?’ It’s like, what do you think is happening at Pride? There are children all over Pride—and a big part of Pride is family.”
Looking to the future, Hernandez wants to see conversations about queer families happen candidly. “I’m hoping it’ll become quite casual and quite normal for people like my own child to see themselves on the pages of a book like this.”