Philly Rising: Teens create a nonbinary hero in 'A Cape for Candy'

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Ella Stevens and Whimsy Mark-Ockerbloom are two teens with a big sense of humor, but they’ve accomplished something pretty serious. 

"I kind of just thought about what's a problem in the world that I wanna look towards solving," said Stevens, a junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

Stevens' problem-solving mindset could have a positive impact for many people who are gender nonbinary — meaning people who don’t identify as male or female. 

"What I thought about was the kind of struggle that there is for nonbinary people and other people, of dealing with misgendering and disrespect and things like that. So I wanted to kind of tackle that and see if I could help," she said.

Stevens, a leader in the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, paired her writing talent with Mark-Ockerbloom's art and life experiences to create a children's book, "A Cape for Candy," which teaches others how to address people who identify as nonbinary. 

"I didn't know about nonbinary identities when I was really little, and I think that probably would have helped me a lot in self-esteem and general life if I had known," said Mark-Ockerbloom, an SCH senior.

Mark-Ockerbloom, who identifies as nonbinary and uses pronouns "they" and "them," created all of the illustrations for the book. They changed their their name around 10th grade.

The book is about a nonbinary kid named Candy, who's on a superhero journey to find a cape that will fit them perfectly. 

"The fact that this book, which in capstone was just a prototype, is now being published — that's the magic," said SCH teacher Edward Glassman. 

The book started out as a class project idea, supported by Glassman and another teacher, Juliet Fajardo. 

"And they can come up with any idea. It's a passion project, and they get to spend a semester working on it," said Fajardo. 

She says the dynamic duo were so talented and passionate that she really didn't have much to do. Stevens and Mark-Ockerbloom put in dozens of hours of work. They're planning to have the book published and available on Amazon by the end of the year. 

"It's a lot easier to understand and accept that part of yourself because you see other people normalizing it and existing without trying to hide it or cover it up or denying it," said Mark-Ockerbloom.

They hope the book will promote representation and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community.