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family By MYRON LOVE From a very young age (not that he is that much older yet), Jacob Swirsky let his parents know that he did not fit the stereotype of a boy his age.


“Jacob was born a boy and identifies as a boy,” says his mother, Jackie, “but his choice of clothing, his interests and his body language are more feminine. People look at him and think he is a girl.”
Jackie Swirsky describes her older son, who is now eight, as “gender creative” or “gender independent”.
“When Jacob turned four and began telling us that he wasn’t comfortable wearing boys’ clothes, we started listening,” she says. “As far as we are concerned, clothes are clothes and toys are toys. The important thing is that Jacob be comfortable being Jacob.”
Jacob’s choice of self-expression is the subject of a new children’s book by his mom called “Be Yourself”, a poem which aims to encourage acceptance of children who don’t conform to the accepted norm both by themselves and their peers. Jacob himself helped illustrate the book along with his aunt (and Jackie’s sister-in-law), Jaimee Appel.

“The poem came to me one day last August,” says Jackie Swirsky, who is a speech pathologist by profession. “We completed the book last fall.”
She emphasizes the importance of parents and family members of supporting children who are different.
Those children who don’t receive that support, she notes, are subject to depression and suicide.
Jackie herself began advocating for Jacob – and other children who are different – even before he started kindergarten. “I was worried that teachers might not understand,” she says. “So I spoke to the administration at Brock Corydon before Jacob started school. The response from the teachers and other children at the school has been phenomenal.”
Over the past couple of years, Jackie has spoken frequently to teachers’ and other groups about being gender creative. “Most people have good intentions,” she notes, “but aren’t sure what to do. I try to help people learn how to talk about the subject.”

Jackie and Jacob will be officially launching “Be Yourself” at McNally Robinson at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday, March 6. Jackie will also be presenting at Limmud on March 13.
There is also a website – beyourselfbook.ca – with suggested lesson plans and activities for educators, and a list of resource centres and reading materials for parents of gender creative children.
The book/poem has also been put to music by music therapist Grant Miyai.

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