Being Bucky, by Mason Pellerin '20, is an uplifting children's story about a ..."Being Bucky," by Mason Pellerin '20, is an uplifting children's story about a transgender chicken finding themselves and their place in the community.

Pellerin’s aims with the book are to increase positive representation of transgender people in kid’s media and create a resource for kids who are questioning their gender that will also serve their families and friends. The story is inspired by his own experience as a trans man growing up with limited awareness about different gender identities.

Mason Pellerin '20, the author of "Being Bucky."“Mason has achieved something truly remarkable with Being Bucky,” says COA arts and design professor Dru Colbert, Pellerin’s senior project advisor. “Bucky’s story is told with positivity, acceptance, and Mason’s abundant sense of humor. He developed the storyline and characters with the help of local schoolchildren to ensure that kids would identify with his project. He worked countless hours to layout and fully illustrate the book with whimsical and expertly rendered artwork.”

Pellerin grew up in an area where resources for LGBTQ youth were scarce. It wasn’t until he was fourteen that he found out what being transgender meant, and it took a while after that before he fully understood and was able to acknowledge that he himself was trans, he says.

“For a long time I didn’t want to accept that I was trans masculine. The internalized transphobia was real” Pellerin says. “‘Being Bucky’ is a book I wish I had had when I was in second or third grade, because in the area I lived nobody talks about this kind of stuff, or wants to talk about it. There’s no resources for it, or there weren’t when I was a kid. So I’m trying to fill that gap.”

The protagonist of “Being Bucky” little Becky, who loves dressing up in her father’s clothes and who can’t wait to grow out her big tail feathers and comb. But she is sad when her parents tell her that only boy chickens get those things. Noticing that she is distressed and uncomfortable, Becky’s parents visit a doctor and learn that Becky is struggling with her assigned gender. They talk to Becky about what she needs and find that Becky would rather be called Bucky and referred to as he and him. They get Bucky a sharp new outfit and introduce him to the other kids at school. There is confusion and curiosity surrounding this change so Bucky, his doctor, and his teacher take the opportunity to teach the other kids what it means to be transgender, the differences between sexuality and gender, and how to accept and support yourself and other people for who they are.

The story features a cast of colorful animal characters, some of which are inspired by students Pellerin met while doing research at local elementary and middle schools. He showed them character artwork and told them the story of Bucky, and asked the students to help fill in each character’s backstory. Callie Cat, a tabby who wears a pink shirt with a big heart on it, was inspired by a student who asked Pellerin if her older sister is trans because she has a girlfriend who she lives with. Another character, Benjamin Bear, wonders if his two gay dads are trans. These ideas helped Pellerin create a world that resonates with kids and reflects real questions they have about gender and sexuality.

The depiction of LGBTQ people in the media has only recently expanded to include transgender people who are more than a laugh-line or who are not miserable because of their gender identity, Pellerin says. This was another factor that motivated him to write Bucky’s story.

“I was really sick of seeing constant tragedy in the trans media that existed. You don’t have to hate being trans,” he says. “You can hate the bullshit that can come with being trans, but you can still like being trans.”

Pellerin included an older transgender character, the aunt of one of Bucky’s classmates, to reinforce the fact that a long and fulfilling life is possible for transgender people despite the disproportionate violence and bigotry they face.

“They need that role model of kids their age who are trans and who are happy, but also older people who are trans and are happy. It’s important to show kids that you can and will survive if you’re trans,” Pellerin says.

The idea for the book came to Pellerin when he was a first-year student and has stuck with him throughout his time at COA, he says. Different classes have allowed him to explore certain aspects of his project. In Sex, Gender, Identity, and Power, taught by philosophy professor Heather Lakey, he expanded his understanding of queer concepts and theory. In Colbert’s Constructing Visual Narrative, he developed character designs as part of his final portfolio.

“Mason undertook a labor of love in his senior project with the creation of Being Bucky,” says Colbert. “It will prove to be a favorite among school children in Maine and beyond!”

Pellerin is currently in the process of finding funding so he can publish his book and distribute copies of Being Bucky to schools across the state.

A COA senior project is the culmination of four years of study. Students can design a project that builds on classes they have taken and ideas they have developed during their time at COA or they can choose to learn something completely new.