Children’s book author on writing about queer lives - 'I want it to start conversations between families'

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Tshegofatso Mogalego
Tshegofatso Mogalego
  • Investigative journalist Tshegofatso Mogalego has written a children's book titled Sipho's Pink Dress.
  • The book follows the life of a non-binary child who shows up to school in a pink dress and is bullied.
  • The 27-year-old says that the book is intended to teach children and adults about gender identity, acceptance and self-love.

Gone are the days when children’s books only focused on fictional princesses who strive to find true love. Nowadays, authors are aiming to teach children about real issues they face, such as bullying, body positivity and embracing their natural hair.

In his debut book, 27-year-old author Tshegofatso Mogalego wants children to know that being 'different' is okay.

Titled Sipho’s Pink Dress, the book follows the journey of a young non-binary child named Sipho – whose bright pink dress causes commotion with their teacher and classmates during their first day of school.

“I usually describe Sipho’s Pink Dress as a protest and a celebration of gender non-conforming individuals and the queer nation in South Africa, Africa and the world,” Mogalego explains.

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Mogalego, who is also an investigative journalist, explains that although Sipho is a name commonly given to male children, the protagonist is gender non-confirming and wears dresses, grows their hair out and goes by the pronouns they/them.

“The importance of emphasising this in the book is so that people can understand gender is not binary and that there are different pronouns,” Mogalego says.

Sipho's Pink Dress was written by Tshegofatso Mogalego and illustrated by Kamohelo Molefe.

On what inspired the book, Mogalego explains that his own trauma and experience pushed him to educate children that are like him about themselves.

“When I thought back to what I had gone through back when I was in primary school and high school, I felt that it was important for me to write this book for children who are just like I was. I want queer children to have a book that represents them and where they can see themselves and be represented in African literature. I grew up a very lonely child because I couldn’t go anywhere to find someone that represented me or where I was seen. I feel that I have the responsibility to change the narrative now,” he says.

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“I think it’s important to have these conversations because things have still not changed. Earlier this year, a 14-year-child committed suicide at a school in Soweto because they were bullied for being different. These are things that should not happen, and I want Sipho’s Pink Dress to spread messages of love, hope and respect,” he adds.

While the book is intended for children, Mogalego believes that even adults will enjoy this read.

“The book is intended for everyone. I want it to start conversations between families during dinner time. I want it to heal the inner child of those who are like me and to educate those who are heterosexual as well. It’s a book for everyone,” he says.

Although the book only took Mogalego a day to complete, he had spent two years doing research about queer literature and writing for children. He chose to work with Pietermaritzburg-based illustrator Kamohelo Molefe of Kamo Vison Comics, who brought all the visuals to life.

The book is available for purchase directly from Mogalego through his social media platforms and retails for R175.

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