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.
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.
How can a book change – or even save – a life? As my family and I prepare for our Celebration Tour in mid-June, we will be featuring a book-a-day. Each donated book will be gifted to a library in one of the 25 states and 2 provinces we visit.
The books celebrate themes of Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG), and are all gifted from our incredibly supportive community. Many of these books are gifted in honor of a family member or friend. Books can – and do – change lives.
HRC Research on 10,000 Youth According to recent ground-breaking research by the Human RIghts Commission, 92% of LGBT youth “say they hear negative messages about being LGBT” mainly from “school, the Internet, and their peers.” 42% of the youth surveyed report that they live in communities that are not accepting of LGBT people. If you would like to hear more in-depth experiences from these youth, watch this video clip from my interview with Amy André, sexuality educator and advocate.
What happens when we counter these harmful, censoring messages by offering gifts of celebration? With words that are freely accessible in every community, but still private enough to access without fear of censorship? Libraries can offer such a safe haven, and books offer such a celebration.
Tulip Lavender on Libraries
Join us in celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender!
I have been planting lots of seeds over the past four years. It’s been quite a journey growing this personal and professional garden. These days, it is amazing to me how all those chilly winter months and April showers have made their impact, and my life has burst into bloom like a flower in May. Even more amazing to me is that the blooms are popping up from Austin to Montreal.
Blooming with Celebration
Today, I am thrilled to announce that my family and I will embark on a Celebration Tourfor two months this summer. Specifically, my family and I will seek out – and share – great books Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG). We are big fans of our local libraries, and are excited to visit with librarians in public libraries in the US and in eastern Canada. Our goal is to gift a book celebrating themes of DSG to each library we visit.
Here you can see my 6 year old daughter reading one of her favorite books: I Am Jazz. This book celebrates the life of an American trans teen, Jazz Jennings. Jazz is the founder of her own mermaid tail company Purple Rainbow Tails. Her mermaid tail company raises money for the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation– of which she is an honorary co-founder. In addition to I Am Jazz, there are an increasing number of books being published by and for youth about DSG.
Growing Our Summer Garden
In June, I am excited to embark on the Celebration Tour to talk with librarians about DSG literature and the conversations they are having with their communities. In July, I am excited for the opportunity to delve into the history and variety of children’s and YA literature celebrating DSG during an interview with Dr. Sally Ember on her globally-accessible webcast Changes. In August, we will make the journey back to Austin – with a different route and more visits to libraries. We will be sharing pictures and adventures along the way on social media and some special extras for the #Censored2Celebrated email list. Would you like us to take a photo just for you along the way?
Why seek out librarians? Quite simply, librarians are some of the most interesting people to talk with not only about books and research, but also about their communities. Indeed, during a recent Censored2Celebrated interview with author and sexuality educator, Cory Silverberg, I spoke with Cory about his parents who are a librarian and a sex therapist. In response to my own surprise that I had zeroed in on his librarian parent, Cory noted how interesting librarians are.
Ever since my chat with Cory, I’ve been thinking a lot about librarians. Two of my mentors from middle school were librarians, and I still treasure a kid’s book by Alice Walker that they gifted to me at graduation. When I lived in San Francisco as a young adult, I did some work with the San Francisco Public Library, and remembered how much I enjoy librarians.
Now I have children of my own. We love going to our public libraries in Austin. We love talking with librarians. They know so much about books and their communities. My inquiring mind wants to know what communities in the US and Canada are talking and reading about diverse sexuality and gender. It’s clearly time to talk with some librarians in as many communities as possible. Lucky for me, my family is up for the adventure!
Will you purchase a book (or more!) before June 30, 2015 to donate to a public library? Here’s our Censored2CelebratedWish List.
(Books are automatically sent to Melita in Texas, and will be donated to a public library in the US or Canada.)
Are you an author of a book celebrating DSG? Would you like to donate a signed copy of your book(s) to donate to a public library? Great, we’d love to support & celebrate your work! Contact Melita here.
A Celebration Tour needs supporters and funding. We are in the start-up phase, and gratefully accept monetary donations to support our celebration of diverse sexuality and gender. ($3, $7 or $19 can buy a great book or a meal to keep us fueled on the Celebration Tour.)
Celebration Tour Support Levels
DSG (count the letters) $3.00 USD
LGBTQIA (count the letters) $7.00 USD
Number of…Countries worldwide with legalized same-sex marriage$19.00 USD
Number of…US states with marriage equality – JUST UPDATED! $50.00 USD
Number of Driving miles from…Burlington, VT to Montreal, QC $94.00 USD
Number of Driving miles from…Vass, NC to Philadelphia, PA $464.00 USD
Number of Driving miles from…Austin, TX to Boston, MA $1,965.00 USD
How can we celebrate you?
We would like to give you a shout out online about your support when you donate funds and/or book(s).
Celebrating the diversity of sexuality & gender, one (webcasted) conversation at a time.
#Censored2Celebrated offers a monthly webcast expanding the global celebration of sexuality & gender diversity, one conversation at a time.
Webcasted interviews feature a wide range of guests who celebrate the diversity of sexuality and gender, both professionally and personally. Melita and her guest(s) have a “come as you are” conversation once a month online for 30 minutes – join us!
The webcast is FREE to all in order to expand the conversation using the accessible, global medium of Google Hangouts on Air (live webcast) and YouTube (replays).
Video clip about DSG with Josh McAdams:
On the #Censored2Celebrated webcast we discuss topics such as:
The LGBTQ+ Alphabet Soup of Sexuality Orientation & Gender Identity, including newer terms like #DSG (Diverse Sexuality & Gender)
Aha moments that our guest(s) experience in their professional work (for example: at DSG conferences, in research, in volunteer work) as well as in their personal life
How to find inspiration to move from from censorship to celebration around Diverse Sexuality & Gender
If you want to learn about how you can experience more celebration – and less censorship – in your professional and personal life, join us as we explore the alphabet soup of sexuality and gender.
We look forward to expanding the conversation with you!
Melita Noël Cantú, MA (Sexuality Studies, SFSU)
Host, From Censored to Celebrated
P.S. If you’d like to be on the EMAIL NOTIFICATION LIST to get notified about future #Censored2Celebrated shows and when video replays and show notes are posted.