How To Talk About GEORGE

With GEORGE about to release, I am aware that many people are looking for ways to respectfully talk about this book and its author (that’s me!) Here are a few notes:

If you’re talking about the main character, go ahead and call her Melissa. She really likes it when you do. And if it sparks a conversation, great. Don’t worry about spoilers. Melissa uses that name for herself in the first chapter of the book. If you call her George from time to time, that’s understandable too. It is the title* of the book. All the same, calling her Melissa is great practice for calling folks what they want to be called. What’s never OK is using the pronoun he for Melissa. Her pronouns is she. Always.

Sometimes, you might want to talk about the fact that Melissa is transgender and that she’s the only one who knows it. Here are some ways you can say this:

  • Melissa is a transgender girl who hasn’t shared this part of herself with anyone else.
  • Melissa is a girl who the world sees as a boy named George.
  • Melissa is a girl who was assigned male at birth, and who hasn’t told anyone otherwise yet.

You’ll notice that I don’t say “Melissa (or George) identifies as.”  I say “Melissa is … who is identified as…” This small difference has a huge effect, both on clarifying that you see Melissa for who she is, and in advancing language that recognizes and honors trans people.   Melissa is who she is. The trouble is in how she is seen (and unseen) by the people around her. And please avoid language about how she’s “stuck” or that her body is “wrong”. These are tired tropes that rely on pity and “other” status.


As For Me

I am genderqueer and use the singular-they as a gender neutral pronoun. You probably already use the singular-they when you talk about an undefined person: “when the guest arrives, tell them to put their things in the closet and to have themselves a seat.” It flows naturally (maybe even more so if you don’t think about it.) It looks like this:

Alex is writing some sample sentences. They don’t have anything specific to say, but they’re going to write a few things anyway so they can give a few examples of what the singular-they looks like in practice. They didn’t plan what to write, and they aren’t going to go on much longer. They weren’t impressed with their own imagination.


*About The Title

The working title for this book was GIRL GEORGE. It was a (perhaps not so) clever homage to Boy George. When Scholastic bought the book, we changed the title**. While I think the change was a smart one for increasing the range of GEORGE’s reach, I have now landed in a position where I have effectively deadnamed my main character. Deadnaming is using someone’s birth name when another name, often a name with different gender markers, has been offered.

Conveniently, Melissa is a fictional character, so she is not personally injured by my lapse in judgement. Further, there is a value in meeting folks head on with a name (George) and pronoun (she) that most people don’t expect together – that character in Nancy Drew and a few other references notwithstanding. Still, it’s important for me to acknowledge if I had the chance to do it over, I would have named my debut differently. (Regrets already. I know. What can ya do?)

** Edited 2/17. This originally said that Scholastic “lopped the title.”  However, in conversations with my editor, I was reminded that it was a joint decision. My apologies for the misrepresentation.

14 comments to How To Talk About GEORGE

  • I am very interested I your book I am only 11 but I love the message you give in your book. Come visit my page

  • Abby

    I enjoyed and appreciated your book so much. I immediately thought of the Nancy Drew character and wondered if Melissa had read any Nancy Drew books. I thought she might like to know there was another girl named George.

  • Drew

    I am a 12-year-old trans boy and I loved reading GEORGE! I do hope you come out with another book (possibly an extension on GEORGE or something else) and I hope it is trans-related. GEORGE helped me discover that I was actually a boy when all my life I’ve been called a girl and not felt right about it. Thank you for writing my favorite book!


      I’m glad to hear Melissa’s story was helpful for you! I am working on a new book now, on a completely different topic, (it’s about Deafness and the Black Lives Matter movement), but it won’t be out for another two years – books take a long time! All the best to you! – Alex

  • Charles

    I liked the way you conveyed the concept of transgender in a clear way. I also really loved the book!

  • Arielle

    I am 9 years old and read George for a book report at school. I think this is a great book with lots of surprises. Everyone should read this book. I hope that there is a sequel.

  • Suzy Gillis

    Dear Alex Gino I’m a 13 year old transgender girl I was born a boy but I didn’t know I was a girl until I read your book George I loved it so much I was sad whan I finished it and so that is why I’m here to sand you this I want you to Make a sequel to George but call it Melissa and it can start whan Melissa and Kelly is getting home from the zoo and Kelly’s dad sees George in girls clothes and asks why he is and he call George’s mom to come over there Imediately to talk about it that’s all I have for now but please make a sequel called Melissa.

    Love: your biggest transgender fan Suzy Gillis

  • Kayla McCauley

    I am a closeted trans female, with homophobic parents. I wish I had a friend like Kelly, I feel like I’m being forced be something I’m not.


      I’m sorry to hear that, Kayla. I hope that you can find a space, however small, to be yourself. Books and journals can be wonderful private place.

      • Kayla McCauley

        I do have a space, but I’d rather be living as want to live. Gender dysphoria kills me and I’m past the point of being able to use hormone blockers. I get crap from my parents and I get more depressed each day. Attempting 3 times isn’t enough for my parents, I’m scared and suicidal, my parents cut back on my gender therapist; which didn’t help, I just wish I was cis.


          Hi Kayla,
          I’m sorry to hear things are so hard for you right now. You will have to live with your parents forever, and while you won’t come out of it unharmed, it will make you who you are. Good luck.

          • Kayla McCauley



            Oh gosh. I meant to say, you WON’T have to live with your parents forever. I wish I could say it’ll all be perfect, but I can say things will change. If you can get through this temporary situation, you’ll have a whole life as yourself. That’s why I recommend having some sort of space now, so that you can still be here with us when you have more freedom.

  • what is the first chapter about? i’m sort of lost and im on chapter 8 page 86.

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