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Different Can Be a Good Thing

Co-star of Ms. Rachel's "Songs for Littles," Jules Hoffman, reflects on representation in early childhood and offers advice for educators and adults.

A Personal Reflection

Hi my name is Jules and I write songs for kids. I am also a white, non-binary, trans-masc human.

This is a small window into my lived experience as a non-binary trans person and the importance of representation in early childhood education. 

Photo credit: Kiera Cronin

Feeling Different

My first memory of me questioning my identity was when I was 2 years old.

Yes, 2 years old. I remember looking down at my body and thinking, “something is not right.” At the age of 5, I asked my parents if it was possible I could be a boy in a girl’s body. I grew up with this internal knowledge of who I was, but no idea how to show that on the outside. What I would quickly learn is that I was indeed “different,” and that “different” was a “bad” thing.

At the age of 12, I had a teacher in middle school who I felt incredibly safe with. She was not like my other teachers. She had short hair and wore t-shirts and shorts to school, she was a “tom-boy” just like me. One day outside of school, I saw her in a grocery store and she introduced me to her partner who identified as a woman. My mind was opened. For the first time, I saw that love could exist outside of the gender binary of “man and woman”, that love could be “different” and that “different” could be a “good” thing.  I didn’t even acknowledge at the time that I could be queer, but I knew I felt seen and safe with this person as my teacher.

Jules Hoffman is a popular guest star in the hit YouTube channel for babies and toddlers, “Songs for Littles” with Ms. Rachel, which has more than 4.5 million subscribers. In early 2023, Jules and the show faced backlash from parents after Jules was introduced with they/them pronouns.

Early Experiences Matter

It is important as teachers, adults, and role models in this world to show and express our most authentic selves.

Maybe that means that you fall within all of the “societal norms” and do not have lived experience as a marginalized person–and that is ok! We cannot live at all of the intersections, but we do have access to resources and tools from diverse voices and lived experiences. The more experiences, bodies, lifestyles people can see, the more children and families have a chance to see themselves in it. This can include race, ability, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, class, and gender identity. This could be lifesaving for some.

I always wondered how my life would have been different if I would have had representation of non-binary and trans people at an earlier age. I think I wouldn’t have questioned myself for so long and felt so othered. I wouldn’t have tried so hard to fit in with fake boyfriends, dresses, and gender norms that I hated. 

I don’t want kids to grow up feeling they have to pretend to be something they are not to feel safe in this world.

We have a long way to go in expanding diversity and amplifying marginalized voices throughout the media. And in the process I hope that we can encourage and nurture a sense of curiosity and wonder for kids–remembering there are an infinite amount of ways to exist in this world and one isn’t better than another. 

Through this curious framework I believe that children will have more access and time to discover their authentic selves. 

How can early childhood programs create welcoming environments for all families?

Jules continues to shine bright, both on “Songs for Littles” and their TikTok channel, to create and perform songs that engage and inspire young children. 

Research shows music is a powerful tool to support early childhood development. It promotes growth in the various developmental domains but also helps nurture connection and joy. Through each piece of content they create, Jules’ goal is to remind children they are loved no matter what.

@julessingsforlittles #stitch with @Nosey Rosie Yestersay I wrote this song for my friend Zayah. Yesterday Zayah woke up after being on life support for over two weeks… Please send out a “Go Zayah!” Into the universe, or a prayer for my friend today. It is still a long road of recovery ahead for Zayah. Check out the original video to see his amazing smile!!! #support #zayah #zayahssong #julestok #julessingsforlittles ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

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