In a very short time, my exploration around the signage on single-stall restrooms in Austin, Houston, and beyond, has turned into a Call to Action. You can get all the details about the #PeeInPeace project here.
You can support our work – and get free #PeeInPeace perks – on IndigeGoGo.
If you’re already on board, and ready to purchase your own inclusive, ADA compliant signage, then scroll on down to find out how to get your discount from SmartSign.
Support our goal to 100%!
WANT TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN MORE QUICKLY? DONATE NOW:
Thanks to our fantastically supportive sponsors at SmartSign, you can get a discount when you purchase All Gender Restroom signs here. (Email Katelyn, and mention Censored2Celebrated, to get your discount.)
Click on the SmartSign logo to see their signs, and email Katelyn about your discount.
Melita Noël Cantú, MA CEO & Founder aka “Rainbow Celebrator Extraordinaire”
PS: Can I ask you a favor? This is a labor of love and celebration of the power of individuals coming together to make change. Please take a moment to donate $4 dollars – or more – to receive your free gift(s) and support the implementation of this celebratory project.
With thanks to the sponsors of the #PeeInPeace project:
Find out how you can sponsor us – for less than you’d imagine – here.
Season 2, Chat 3 features PFLAG Austin Board President, and fashion maven, Anna Nguyen.
RSVP to tune in for the Blab with Anna and Melita on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 3 pm CST here, or watch it right here on this webpage.
Why Join Us for the Live Blab? Our webcasted conversation is an opportunity for allies and advocates of the LGBTQ community to gather. Together, we will explore how to connect in order to support – and celebrate – each other around diverse gender and sexuality.
Through this webchat, Anna will offer her experience and insights to gender variant people considering transitioning or is in the process of transitioning. Join us live to learn and jump in to ask questions!
About Anna Nyugen I am a transgender woman from Austin, Texas. I started transitioning in December 2013 and came out in July 2014. I am the current President of PFLAG Austin, which is co-sponsoring the Transgender Day of Remembrance event at Austin’s City Hall on 11/21.
I am a software engineer. I currently own a small software company that publishes fashion-related applications.
Anna Nguyen, modeling a Halloween costume of her own design
PFLAG Austin had provided a supportive and welcoming environment during the early stages of my transition for which I am very grateful. I serve on its Board as a way to give back, to ensure that PFLAG will continue to be a supportive and welcoming environment for all those who need it.
Check out Anna’s personal website here. Connect with Anna here.
A quote that inspires Anna Nguye
More on What We’ll Be Talking About in Season 2 Each month in Season 2, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015.
In September, for Chat 1, we talked with author and educator Sally Ember, Ed.D. Watch the video clip with Sally here.
In October, for Chat 2, we learning more about what author Amy G. Dalia is up to, as well as got a chance to see her in-depth lists of LGBTQ books and films. To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season 1, give you insight into the many reasons we align ourselves with the rainbow, and lay the groundwork for our next-level conversations focusing on the Celebration Tour.
Click here for the Rainbow Video Clip Q&A series with Melita about Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender
Get all the Censored2Celebrated news delivered to your in-box: Sign up for emails here.
Is it really that easy to join the Celebration Challenge?
Yes. Let me break it down.
I Am Jazz was the most donated & gifted book during the Celebration Tour.
1. buy a book While libraries vary in their donation policies, most libraries prefer books that are a) new, and b) hardcover.
Choose any book that is meaningful to you. Click herefor some ideas of recommended books. (Although this list is on Amazon, we highly recommend supporting your local bookstore with your purchase.)
2. go to the library Check out your local library’s LGBTQ selection online if you can. But the great thing that I learned about libraries, and librarians, is that it is just fine to drop in. They love talking about books, and they love getting donations.
The point is that one of the great things about libraries is that they are free and open to the public. And, of course, they have lots of books to read.
Librarians are also family friendly drop-in options for summertime road trips as they often have special programs. For instance, during the Summer of the Celebration Tour 2015, the nationwide program was Every Hero Has a Story.
When you’re doing a road trip, libraries are easy to find in most communities, and they have convenient, clean, family-friendly restrooms. Believe me when I emphasize how important these aspects were when traveling with two kids, and our alternative – and sometimes necessary stop – was at a gas station.
4. visit the kid’s/YA section Initially, after our restroom visit, we headed to the kid’s section because that was fun for my young ones (ages 18 months and 6 years old during our trip).
It also gave me a good chance to familiarize myself with the books in the library collection. Many libraries also had lots of interactive activities and computers that thoroughly engaged my kids.
After visiting 21 libraries this summer, I realized that visiting these sections of the library also allowed me some time to get to explore that library’s individual nature, read some books we liked, and casually meet some other people who were hanging out there. In short, we became part of the library community during our visit.
For me, this was very important as I didn’t want to come across as a crazy person or zealot when it came time to talk with a librarian. I am, first and foremost, a parent who cares about having great books in my kid’s lives. And I believe in giving back to a community space that I have always cherished. (Indeed, I think I was a librarian in another life.)
By taking the time to honor the space and the people, it felt a lot more comfortable for me – and for them, I think – to have a meaningful conversation. This brings me to point #5.
Celebrating Families in Saco, Maine
5. talk with a librarian This is the part that most people want to know about, and each conversation started in a different way depending on the situation. But there were some commonalities.
Most of the time, I approached someone at the desk with my Box of Books.
In this video clip, you can watch my littlest one, Azalea, fully explore our Box of Books while Tulip talks about some of her favorite books.
Other times, we met in the stacks or in the kid’s play area and started talking about something in the moment.
Each and every time, I made sure to introduce myself, briefly mention the Celebration Tour, and let them know that I would like to donate a book. I would also mention that all of the books were donated by families who celebrate their LGBTQ youth.Each gifted book also had a bookplate celebrating the person for whom the book was donated.
This felt particularly important to me because – even with all the censorship around diverse sexuality and gender in our culture, and in books – there are a lot of families who fully celebrate their youth who identify as LGBTQ. I wanted their names – or pseudonyms – to be celebrated in the books that were gifted in their honor.
As we know, it is not always comfortable – or safe – for some families, and individuals, to be as publicly celebratory as they might wish.
For instance, as of August 2015, there have 25 murders of trans women in the past two years. This is one example of how powerfully violence, or the fear of violence, can censor those of us who identify along the spectrum of diverse sexuality and/or gender. It also shows how courageous it is to celebrate DSG in whatever ways we can. I am hopeful that all of us can find ways – both small and big – that we can celebrate DSG despite the very real self and cultural censorship.
For all of these reasons, and even with all of my experience and comfort talking about diverse sexuality and gender for 30+ years, it wasn’t always easy to walk into a library, and talk about sexuality and gender in the kid’s section, or in communities that might censor such topics. However, I knew that I had this was a way I could step up and celebrate all those families, and youth, who might not yet be able celebrate their own diverse sexuality and gender.
Although it made me anxious every time I walked into a library, it also made me feel deeply powerful and connected every time I connected with a librarian to gift another book.
The thing to remember is that librarians love books. They are also – rightfully so – proud of their libraries, and how their libraries serve the community. Though some had different policies, or a different staff member who could accept the donation, none of the librarians declined the gift of a book.
Give Gifts In addition to a gifting a book (or more) to the library, I gave each librarian a gift of a bookmark, a magnet, and my business card with a question on the back. I also had rainbow PRIDE bracelets, rainbow crayons, and bumper stickers as additional gifts for all the wonderful people who hosted us along the way.
Thanks again to Mimi for creating such a beautiful collage of our visit at the library in Darien, Connecticut showing all the fun swag we shared during the Celebration Tour.
You can download the bookmark here. We still have a few bumperstickers, and magnets left.
Connect with meif you’d like me to send you some materials. I’m also happy to send you my templates if you’d like to get copies printed for your own celebrations. The Celebration Tour is not mine. I may have started it, but it is all of ours.
The Importance of Asking Open-Ended Questions
Each of my business cards has a different question. These simple, open-ended questions not only allowed me to learn so many interesting things, but I also got so many great book recommendations. I didn’t plan for this to be part of my visit, but I was very grateful that I had the business cards with conversation sparking questions on them. Thanks again to Kate McCombs for inspiring this wonderful idea!
6. take a pic (or video) Understandably, not every librarian will want their picture taken. However, all of them allowed me to feature their beautiful libraries with the gifted book. I know these photos have meant a lot to the families who originally donated the book as it is a form of public celebration.
I highly recommend taking a picture or making a short video of your experience. The most important thing is to do something in a way that feels fun and celebratory to you.
Here’s one of my favorites from Fayetteville, Georgia. That teddy bear was HUGE!
7. post the #CelebrationTour pic Not everyone can be public about their celebrations, but everyone can celebrate in some meaningful way.
Once you’ve taken pic(s) or a video, find a way to share your excitement with someone who can celebrate with you. This may be through something as ephemeral as snapchat, or as permanent as sending a printed copy of the pic to your grandma. And, of course, there’s always email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube and more.
However you choose to celebrate, I would love to see it! (I want to honor you in your celebration, so please be sure to let me know if this is a private celebration, or if you would allow me to celebrate your library adventure on social media and my website.)
If you’d like to share your celebration pic/video on your own social media, please use the hashtag #CelebrationTour.
I hope that your visit will spark some powerful conversations.
I will never forget the joy I felt in Biloxi, Mississippi when I met Jackie at the library. She told me that no one had ever asked her about books for youth celebrating diverse sexuality and gender. She shared with me that our visit offered her the opportunity to have start conversations about DSG – something that had never occurred before among the staff or visitors to the library. When we left, she said she expected that having the book I Am Jazzwould continue to spark celebratory conversations about DSG.
Honestly, when we walked into the Biloxi library, I had no idea what to expect. It was our second day of the trip, and the second library we visited. I had been so nervous in Lake Charles, Lousiana that I forgot to ask for a picture when we donated Annie on My Mindto the wonderful teen librarian there.
We had chosen to stop in Biloxi because it was lunchtime, and we needed a spot to eat our picnic lunch. (We learned that libraries have great playscapes in addition to excellent restrooms for kids and families.) Jackie was so welcoming and engaging from the moment my kids and I walked in. Our conversation felt magical in how direct, honest, and heart-warming it felt. It continues to be one of the most powerful experience of our trip, and it gives me chills every time I think about it. Thank you Jackie!
8. celebrate! Dance a dance, sing a song, march in a parade, donate another book, hug yourself, or your family member or friend, who identifies as LGBTQ, share your story.
Celebrating Courage at the Rosa Parks Library & Museum
Rosa Parks was a 42-year-old African American woman, who worked as a seamstress. On a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, shecourageously said “No” to injustice, and “Yes!” to civil rights for all.
I am a 41 year old white, queer-identified woman with a family who says “Yes!” to talking about and gifting books that celebrate DSG. (I say “Yes!” to books that celebrate diversity beyond DSG, too. For instance, check out the indie publisher Flamingo Rampant.)
Rosa Parks took her stand (or rather seat) on a bus. This summer, I took my stand in libraries, through celebrating my joy of books. All of the librarians, and all of the people we met along the way became part of our story. All of you reading these words are part of our story.
Each time I had a conversation, or gifted a book, I felt that much more powerful. Imagine if each of you gift a book to a library, or have a conversation, or wear a PRIDE bracelet in support of celebrating DSG. Imagine how amplified the celebration will be when it ripples out across social media and into our conversations and actions in our communities.
What is a Gender NonspecificSign?
This is a great question, and one about which there is a lot of confusion.
First of all, a lot of people and places mistakenly use the term “gender neutral” to mean inclusive of all genders. While the language is constantly changing, and can be very confusing as a result, it is our understanding that gender neutral is an identity. Additionally, the Censored2Celebrated team thinks that gender nonspecific is more clear when discussing signage for restrooms.
For instance, in Austin, Texas, the male/female sign below is considered compliant with the “gender neutral” signage city ordinance. This means that, as it currently stands, a business with this sign on their single-stall restroom would not be fined as being out of compliance.
However, according to our source at the city, it is not the preferred sign as it reinforces the gender binary. Our goal at Censored2Celebrated is to encourage conversations all over the City – and with every high school Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) we can visit – to talk about why signage is so important to creating safe space for everyone in public places like restrooms.
While your city or town may define this differently, and it’s important to check on the legal specifics, we’re here to offer some guidelines that should work to make most every public space more safe for all of us to pee in peace.
This ISN’T a gender nonspecific sign.
Let’s explore a few questions to better understand why this isn’t a gender nonspecific sign.
Question: How many genders are represented on this sign? Answer: Just two. This is often called the gender binary.
Question: Is there a sign that can indicate restroom inclusiveness of all genders as well as the needs of differently-abled people who may need support from a caregiver of another gender, and families with different genders? Answer: Yes!
Other Examples of Gender NonSpecific Signs
One of Censored2Celebrated’s “First” Founding Members, SmartSign has shared their top 4 sellers of All Gender Restroom signs.
After a whirlwind year of celebratory projects, webchats, and blogs, I wanted to take some time on this Thanksgiving Day here in the US to reflect on why it is so important to me to do this work. (Then I got sidetracked by one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving – the baking! And then again by an impromptu pop-in by my daughter as I was trying to write this morning with a thank you gift for me. Seven year old kids are the best!)
Back to the topic at hand, this is a time for gratitude and celebration of the abundance I have in my life with wonderful family, friends, and the gifts that I continue to garner through conversations about diverse sexuality and gender with everyone I meet through my work with Censored2Celebrated, The Human Empathy Project, and PFLAG. As I know, not everyone has the privilege to celebrate as openly as I am able.
As you may know, or surmise, two of my primary values are authenticity and empathy. You can imagine how much joy it brings to my life to be able to have authentic and empathic conversations about topics that are so close to my heart. And yet, even in 2015, I know that this is not a universal gift.
Indeed, you may be a person who is challenged in finding ways to have authentic, empathic conversations about sexuality and gender with the people in your life. And you may have lost people in your life because of who you, or your child, is in the world. In the spirit of this day of thanksgiving, and in the spirit of honoring those of us who may not have family celebrating us today, I wanted to share some of my own personal journey about why I fiercely dedicate myself to move beyond tolerance and acceptance to full-on celebrate diverse sexuality and gender.
Not only is celebration a tool of empowerment, but I believe that it is a matter of life and death. And while I am able to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender in my own life, this has not always been the case. Everyday I try to do something that helps me – and others – be more brave in the world.
In that spirit, here is my story. I shared it at the Transgender Day of Remembrance / Transgender Day of Resilience on the steps of Austin’s City Hall on November 21, 2015. And now I share it with you. I hope it helps you be more brave to speak with authenticity and empathy to celebrate all the people in your life.
Last November, my daughters and I sat where you now sit – perhaps a little uncomfortably – on the concrete steps of Austin City Hall. As you may remember, one year ago, befitting the mood, it was raining. As we listened to the challenges and heard the names of the dead read, I remember looking at my girls, and worrying about what these words might be teaching them about what it means to be different – whether that difference is language, race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, or sexuality and gender identity – or any intersection of these differences.
Mostly, I remember feeling grateful that I had the forethought to tell my girls that this event dares to speak out loud about the challenges that many transgender people experience in their lifetime. Challenges stemming from cultural censorship, such as the basic right to “pee in peace” – more on that later – or the internalized self-censorship where a trans person might feel that they must “pass” in order to be fully known as their authentic self.
Some say that I am an unusual mother in the world of people who parent transgender children. After all, I have a Master’s degree in Sexuality, and I have a long history of exploring gender identity. I have also walked through my own internal and external censorship as a single woman who identifies as queer, femme, and pansexual. And I am delighted to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender as the CEO and Founder of my business From Censored to Celebrated, and as the Vice President on the Board of The Human Empathy Project, and a proud member of PFLAG Austin (and hopefully, soon, a Board member!).
My 7 year old daughter has been self-identifying as a transgender girl for 18 months. I celebrated her right to explore and speak her truth long before that. For the most part, I have been able to shield her from overt expressions of censorship and hate. As we know, differences are sometimes feared, sometimes tolerated, and sometimes even accepted. However, in my experience, differences are very rarely celebrated.
Sitting on these steps, trying to keep dry from the rain, we had our first in depth conversation about the challenges that so many transgender people feel everyday. I was grateful my girls witnessed this powerful event that speaks hard truths about these difficult experiences. Even though it can be so painful, I am grateful that this community – and many others internationally – takes this time in November to share these stories.
Given who I am in the world – inhabiting the space of a sexuality and gender educator, parent of a transgender youth, and identifying as queer – I want to focus now on how I use celebration as a tool of empowerment. I have three tools to share with you that any one of you can use to celebrate a person who is “different.”
TOOL 1: CREATE SAFE SPACE Let me start by admitting: I am a feminist. So to have my “assigned male at birth” child racing home from preschool everyday to put on a skirt, or a dress, thrilled me. I celebrated that my child felt comfortable exploring gender roles and gender expression. A child who lives authentically, with the fullest range of options before them, doesn’t consider the adult labels of gender important. And, most importantly, I had a child who was expressively, undeniably, happy.
But the language of adults can be tricky, so I chose to use my fancy “adult language” to make space for my child to just BE. I talked openly to anyone who would listen – including my child – about how it is critical for healthy self development to be able to express one’s authentic self fully.
If I don’t celebrate my child.
If you don’t celebrate your child, WHO WILL?
Through these conversations, and my celebratory support, I created space for my child to play in the safety of our home, friend’s and family’s homes, as well as at dance and music classes, birthday parties, and our church.
I am aware of the privilege I hold in knowing the language of diverse sexuality and gender. I am also aware that anyone can celebrate their child. I think that the most important path to celebrating your child – or anyone in your life – is to witness and engage them, as well as the world around them, and create the space for their most authentic selves to develop.
TOOL 2: CHANGE THE CONVERSATION When we go to bat to celebrate our children – or anyone who feels the weight of having their identities suppressed in whole or in part – we make the statement to the world that the hate stops with us. Sometimes you have the privilege to be private about a difference, and to walk in the world in “stealth” mode, as it were. Other times, differences are seen the first moment you walk in the door and no option of privacy is available. In either case, you can make the choice to celebrate differences everywhere.
For those who have transgender family members who are living in the closet for a period of time, consider whether you can celebrate diverse sexuality and gender on social media feeds, or by calling out subtle microaggressions in conversations with coworkers, or at the grocery store. For those of us who can be loud and proud, we can march in parades, attend events, give speeches, write a blog, lobby our government, and listen mindfully before outwardly celebrating the stories of those of us who need to be in the shadows for now.
The goal is to seek small and large ways to change the conversation, give space for the evolutionary process, and approach tough talks with a empathy-filled heart.
TOOL 3: CELEBRATE EVERYWHERE & IN THE EVERYDAY These days, with the creation of safe space in my home and community, and by being so aware of censorship, it has become easier and easier to change the conversation. As a result, — please, listen closely here — in this moment, right this second…this is the first time I have been given permission to publically celebrate my daughter’s transgender identity.
It makes me more proud than I can convey in words, and I am so honored she has trusted me with this opportunity. I take this moment for her, for myself, and for everyone here and at home who don’t have the same freedom – to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender in all their beautiful and complex prisms, and I want you to do the same where you can.
Here are two examples of what celebration looks like in my everyday life:
First, through my work with From Censored to Celebrated this summer, I was able to travel with my daughters to 24 states and Ontario where we spoke with librarians and donated children’s books celebrating diverse sexuality and gender. The celebration was two-fold in that we had the honor of receiving these books from families who celebrate their own transgender child’s journey while allowing me to recognize their celebration by having me gift these books on their behalf.
Secondly, this past March at Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church in South Austin, we were preparing for our 9 month old daughter for her child dedication. Simultaneously, I invited my older daughter to be recognized for her transition to identifying as a transgender girl, to which she agreed, and her ceremony became one of the most powerful and celebratory moments I have experienced at our church. I was grateful to hear that many in our church community also experienced her celebration in a very powerful way.
During the child dedication ceremony the minister, Reverend Brian Ferguson – who is here with us tonight – said:
Six years ago we dedicated you as [a boy]. Since that time, you have realized that you are a girl and seek to honor yourself as such. While this is often referred to as a transition and we are referring to part of our ceremony as a transition celebration, in many ways it is an act of recognition within you of who you most authentically are.
Consequently, we wish to honor and celebrate this recognition for you. You said to me that you are a transgender girl. For you, it is an act of honest recognition. For those of us around you, it is an act of transition as we commit to recognize and celebrate you as a girl. This is a courageous path you have chosen to find your wholeness when much of society is forcing you to conform in a different way than feels right and authentic to you. Today, we honor you as the girl you are and admire you as you undertake this journey to make your spirit whole.
These words alone took my breath away.
Then the minister continued:
May your journey of recognition, and your parents example as loving, committed parents, be a gift to this community. May you all be an example of what it means to live with honesty, courage, and integrity.
Whether you claim your child with pride in a public forum such as this one, partake of a sacred ceremony with your inner circle, or simply champion co-workers as allies – do what you can, where you can, to lift up and affirm diversity wherever it occurs.
Having shared all of this, I imagine that many of you here tonight knew as a child that you were different. You may have wished – more than anything – for safe space to explore what that might mean for you.
Imagine… Imagine for a moment if someone had created safe space for you to feel celebrated. Imagine if you now choose to consciously create safe space for another person in your life who deeply needs to explore their authentic selves. What would that look like? How could this one act of quiet celebration change someone’s life?
Audre Lorde once said that poetry is not a luxury. Similarly, for me, celebration – in the face of censorship and hate – is NOT a luxury. Indeed, celebration is the way through. Those are the words I live by. Those are the words that shape my thoughts, and direct my actions.
Celebration IS the way through.
In celebration of you, in celebration of all of our children, I commit my business, my time, and the time and talents of the team that supports me to making sure that every single-stall restroom on the planet is safe for you. It begins here in Austin as I lay the foundation for the #PeeInPeace project.
I commit to you now, today, in this moment, that at this event next year I will say to you: In Austin, it is done. Never again will you be in this city without allies like me making it safe for my ally in you.
If you want to join me, in making Austin a safe place and setting the standard for public restroom ordinances elsewhere, let me know.
Support the basic human dignity to #PeeInPeace here:
RSVP to tune in for the Blab with Amy and Melita on Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 1 pm CST here.
Why Join Us for the Live Blab? Our webcasted conversation is an opportunity for allies and advocates of the LGBTQ community to gather. Together, we will explore how to connect with youth in order to support – and celebrate – them around diverse gender and sexuality.
About Author Amy G. Dalia Season 2 continues with special guest Amy G. Dalia, inspiration for many of the books that were gifted to the Celebration Tour.
Amy is an author who makes a difference for LGBTQ youth, families, and anyone who’s ever felt they’re somehow “less” or “other” in the world. She is currently writing a contemporary Young Adult (YA) novel with LGBTQ themes. She also has a YA fantasy trilogy stewing on the back burner.
You can check out her blog here. And here’s a FREE sample of her book – just in time for celebrating Halloween!
Amy is passionate about LGBTQ equality, travel, and anything related to Greece. She is the proud mama of three children.
Quote that Inspires Amy
Check out Amy’s writing portfolio here. Connect with Amy here.
More on What We’ll Be Talking About in Season 2 Each month in Season 2, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015. In September, for Chat 1, we talked with author and educator Sally Ember, Ed.D. Watch the video clip with Sally here. To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season 1, give you insight into the many reasons we align ourselves with the rainbow, and lay the groundwork for our next-level conversations focusing on the Celebration Tour.
Click here for the Rainbow Video Clip Q&A series with Melita about Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender
Get all the Censored2Celebrated news delivered to your in-box: Sign up for emails here.
What We’ll Be Talking About in Season Two Each month in Season Two, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015. To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season One, give you insight into the many reasons we align ourselves with the rainbow, and lay the groundwork for our next-level conversations focusing on the Celebration Tour.
Click here for a Rainbow Video Clip Q&A with Melita about DSG
Get all the Censored2Celebrated news to your in-box: Sign up for emails here.
With gratitude to Josh & Shawn McAdams for donating this book.
This book truly celebrates moving beyond self, family & cultural censorship to celebration. It could easily be named 10,000 Celebrations!
Censorship Hurts, Celebration Heals As we prepare to head off for our Celebration Tour tomorrow, I wanted to share a book that truly embodies the spirit of moving from censored to celebrated.
In this colorful and celebratory story, Bailey attempts to get support for her dreams of dresses, as well as how she identifies her gender, from her family. Each family member censors her with their hurtful responses. (We’ve shared some life saving resources hereif you or someone you know are experiencing similar challenges, and need support.)
Soon Bailey comes upon a community member, Laurel, sewing a dress on the porch of her little blue house. In making a new friend, Bailey finds a person and place where she is celebrated for her whole self.
Caleb Matthews, Tulip Lavender & Azalea Lavender talk about their favorite parts of 10,000 Dresses here:
Our Favorite Quote
“These dresses don’t show us the Great Wall of China, or the Pyramids,” said Laurel. “No,” said Bailey, but they do show us OURSELVES.”
“You’re the coolest girl I ever met, Bailey!” said Laurel. “Hey, do you think you can dream up any MORE dresses?”
Bailey grinned. “I think I can dream up 10,000!”
I had a graduate student come up to my reference desk the other day asking for picture books where the characters acted out non-traditional gender roles. When this happens (and it happens more than you would think) I tend to begin with the stories that can be interpreted multiple ways, like The Story of Ferdinand. Then I pluck out The Paper Bag Princess, Elena’s Serenade, and William’s Doll. The piece de resistance is our very special copy of X: A Fabulous Child’s Story which you will not find circulating in just any library system, thank you very much. However, the book I most wanted to show off was 10,000 Dresses.
— School Library Journal
How Do You Celebrate Diversity?
Do you have a favorite book that celebrates the Diversity of Sexuality & Gender?
Have you read the 10,000 Dresses?
Share in the comments how this, or another book, has changed – or even saved – a life. I will be highlighting your celebratory quotes about books I feature in my #aBookaDay blog.
With gratitude to Susie Hayesfor gifting this colorful – and bilingual – book that ends with this quote: Call me tree / Llámame árbol Because / Porque I am tall / Soy alto I am strong / Soy fuerte And like a tree / Y como un árbol I am free / Soy libre
Call Me Tree You may have noticed some transgender people have been a bit busy breaking cultural taboos recently. There are a few hashtags running around which might be recognizable.
Depending on your relationship with the transgender community, you may know one or all three of these hashtags:
It has been a week where Caitlyn Jenner’s image on the cover of Vanity Fair was tweeted the world over. It has also included notable responses from the transgender community such as Jenn Dolari and Crystal Frasier’s powerful call for trans people to create their own Vanity Fair cover celebrating the beauty and strength in the transgender community. (They also wanted to make the point that not every trans person can – or wants to – subscribe to “white, cisnormative beauty standards.”)
“Far too often the ‘T’ is left behind or out of sight when we talk about LGBT issues, and it’s important to visibly make a commitment to work that we know needs to be done. I can’t think of anything more visible than putting the trans flag right next to the American flag at City Hall,” she told Philadelphia Gay News.
“We have far too many times where the trans community is mourning, from Trans Day of Remembrance to every time we lose somebody. But instead we should take a moment and revel in the empowerment of where the community is going because that’s incredibly important to celebrate.”
Author Sam Martin, who is now 43 and transitioned after reading a photo journalist book featuring transgender people, says, “When I was growing up, I never saw people like me in movies or books.” He continues:
“My goal was to write stories that would have helped me feel less alone at that age,” said Mr. Martin, who works as a Starbucks barista in Washington and writes at night.
A few years ago, gender fluidity was rarely addressed in children’s and young adult fiction. It remained one of the last taboos in a publishing category that had already taken on difficult issues like suicide, drug abuse, rape and sex trafficking. But children’s literature is catching up to the broader culture, as stereotypes of transgender characters have given way to nuanced and sympathetic portrayals on TV shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent.”
Transgender actress-activist, Laverne Cox, echoes this sentimentwhen she reviewed the book I Am Jazz, co-authored by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.
Mr. Andrews, 19, said that books for young adults on the subject were scarce when he began transitioning to male from female in 2011.
“When I first started transitioning, I mostly had YouTube as a source,” he said. “I wanted to write a book to help others because there were not a lot of sources out there, and I thought that one book could save a person’s life.”
Mr. Andrews says he receives 15 to 20 Facebook messages a day from readers about his memoir, “Some Assembly Required,” including notes from children as young as 8 and readers in their 60s and 70s who say the book helps them navigate questions about their gender identity.
Books are a path to self-understanding, and these books are clearly making a difference for many people – of all ages. I cannot wait to see what books will make a difference for the people I will be meeting on the Celebration Tour!
Call Me Tree / Llámameárbol
While there are a number of books which focus on what it feels like to move from one gender box to another, there are fewer that focus on the non-binary experience. These are the kids and adults who identify as gender creative, gender expansive, gender fluid, and/or gender non-conforming. Recently, my webcast guest, Krysti Ryan, noted how she has seen an increase – just in the past year – around the next generation pushing the gender binary norms.
Call Me Tree fits that need in that it provides a “gender free” multicultural reading experience where all children can see themselves.
The author, Maya Christina Gonzalez, writes:
You may or may not notice something different about my new book, Call Me Tree. Nowhere in the story are boy/girl pronouns used. No ‘he’ or ‘she’ anywhere! I found it easy to write this way because that’s how I think of kids, as kids, not boy kids or girl kids.
I even requested that no ‘he’ or ‘she’ be used anywhere else in the book, like on the end pages or the back cover when talking about the story. I also asked the publisher to only refer to the main character as a child or kid when they talked about my book out in the world. Because I wanted Call Me Tree to be gender free!
(Read the note to the reader from the author about creating a “gender free multicultural book” here.)
Gender Free While I knew this book was “gender free” before I read it, and liked that it was about growth (a big theme for me), and celebration, I was curious if reviewers would recognize or highlight the gender free message. None of the reviews I found seemed to even notice this message, and always referred to the child (“Tree”) in the book using the “he” pronoun.
Given that the author was very intentionally creating this book to be gender free, I was happy to see this review where Crystalee of The Best Books Ever, writes:
I rushed out and picked up a copy from the library. It’s a beautiful picture book with bright illustrations and sparse language in both English and Spanish. However, if I had never read the article, I probably wouldn’t have realized the gender-neutral tones. This isn’t a book that hits you over the head with an agenda, but it DOES do a great job of conveying the message that everyone is unique and everyone should go after their dreams.
Like me, this reviewer knew about the intentionality around gender. On one hand, given the more subtle undertones about gender, this book may appeal to a broader audience, and it may not be as likely to get challenged or banned. On the other hand, it could mean that some youth who would enjoy – and see themselves reflected in it – may not know how to access it easily.
Alphabet Soup Paradox
This seems the paradox around how and why we choose to categorize any literature – or identities, for that matter. Witness the many discussions around language and the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup that we discuss on my monthly webcast. Regardless, I will be interested to see which library chooses this book to add to their collection, and why!
Our Favorite Quote My daughter, Tulip Lavender (her chosen pen name), loves that this book is bilingual. She particularly enjoyed sharing it with her bilingual Spanish/English 1st grade class earlier this year.
Some trees reach
Some trees teach
Some trees stand so still
Algunos árboles se extienden
Algunos árboles se enseñan
Algunos árboles se quedan tan quietos