Category Archives: Conversation

Celebration IS the way through.

Gratitude for the Ability to Celebrate

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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.


Celebration as a Tool of Empowerment
by Melita Inara Noël, MA
Presented at Austin’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event

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.”

Create Safe Space_Tool of Empowerment 1_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

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.

Change the conversation. _Tool of Empowerment 2_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

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.

Celebrate everywhere_Tool of Empowerment 3_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

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.

FINAL WORDS

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.

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.

PeeInPeace_twitterheader_Censored2Celebrated

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.

#PeeInPeace                    

Thank you.


Support the basic human dignity to #PeeInPeace here:

Click here to watch why Ivan Coyote thinks we all need a safe place to pee.

Powerfully said #IvanCoyote. #PeeInPeaceSupport 100% of Austinites being able to #PeeInPeace by 11.16.16 here:http://igg.me/at/PeeInPeace/x/12809685

Posted by From Censored to Celebrated on Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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#PeeInPeace bumpersticker

Pee in Peace Project

Find out more about the #PeeInPeace Project here.

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.

#PeeInPeace

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 signs, and mentioned Censored2Celebrated to get your discount.

Click on the SmartSign logo to see their signs, and email Katelyn about your discount.

Are you outside of Austin? Contact me if you’d like to talk about how we can bring the #PeeInPeace project to your hometown.

In celebration,
Melita
Melita Noël Cantú, MA

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:


cropped-c2c-logo.png     hues-logotype-1400       thehumanempathyprojectorg_logo     SmartSign_logo          PFLAG Austin Logo wht

Find out how you can sponsor us – for less than you’d imagine –  here.

Best of Luck_Anna Nguyen_Censored2Celebrated

Anna Nguyen on #Censored2Celebrated (Season 3, Chat 3)

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Season 2, Chat 3 features PFLAG Austin Board President, and fashion maven, Anna Nguyen.

Anna_Nguyen_RainbowHeader_111215_Censored2Celebrated (1)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 headshot

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.


Best of Luck_Anna Nguyen_Censored2CelebratedAnna the Awesome was
one of our first supporters of the Celebration Tour!

Check out Anna’s personal website here. Connect with Anna here.

A quote that inspires Anna Nguyen

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 a Rainbow Video Clip Q&A with Melita about DSG

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.

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Author who celebrates diverse sexuality & gender

Amy G. Dalia, featured guest on Censored2Celebrated for Chat #2 (Season 2)

Season 2, Chat 2 features author Amy G. Dalia.
Amy helped shape our book selections
for the Celebration Tour!

AmyGDalia_RainbowHeader_101515_Censored2CelebratedRSVP 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.

We will also be speaking to writers and readers of LGBTQ stories.

Check out Amy’s extensive lists focusing on books for youth celebrating diverse sexuality and gender:

 

Amy G. Dalia: author who celebrates LGBT themes

Amy G. Dalia: Celebrating LGBT themes

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 : "The best is yet to come." - William Shakespeare

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 a Rainbow Video Clip Q&A with Melita about DSG

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.

Sally & Melita dancing

Sally Ember, Ed.D.: Featured Guest for Chat #1 (Season 2)

Season Two launched with a special guest we met along the way during our Celebration Tour!

Season Two officially launched with special guest Sally Ember, Ed.D., author, educator, and HOA host of Changes: Conversations Between Authors.

We celebrated live on Thursday, September 17, 2015, by webcasting on Blab!

Check out the replays:

  • Look at the live comments and watch the video of our 55 minute chat here.
  • Listen to the audio recording here.
  • Watch the video clip here.

    Video Clip: Defining Sexual Identity

    Video Clip: Defining Sexual Identity

Connect with Sally 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

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.

Q for Librarians: What's your favorite book celebration DSG?

Share the Celebration

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Question:

Spread the Celebration

Answer:
Listof8Steps_censored2celebrated

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 here for 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.

CelebrationTour_CelebratingHeroes_Coopersgtown_072815Librarians 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. 

3. use the [All Gender] restroom
This is both a practical suggestion, as well as a political point.

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.

Politically, I had hoped to see some All Gender Restroom signs on our travels, but I have to report that I didn’t see any. I am proud that my hometown, Austin, Texas, has joined Philly and DC in passing All Gender Restroom signage requirements for single-use restrooms.

Perhaps my next Celebration Tour will be about gifting All Gender Restroom signs. Oh wait, that’s already a thing – you can download your very own sign right here.

CelebrationTour_SparkingConversations_0621154. 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.

CelebrationTour_SacoME_071615

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. CelebrationTour_BelovedBooks_061915Each 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.

Celebrating Community in CTAs 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 sexualityCelebrationTour_Celebrating_TangoMakes3_NH_072115 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.

CelebrationTour_CelebrationGifts_061615The 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.

They know how precious books are.

They know how books change – and even save – lives.

WhatBookHasChangedYourLife_Twitter_Censored2Celebrated

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.Celebrating Community in CT

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 me if 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.

11888539_10206955960360328_3447993944447683351_oThe 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.

Celebration Tour_Celebrating ChildhoodI 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.

CelebrationTour_MuskogeeOK_080815Once 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. CelebrationTour_SparkingConversations_061515

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 Jazz would 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 Mind to 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!

Check it out:
You can see how many of our pics come up when I googled #CelebrationTour here. What conversation will your picture/video spark? 

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.


Are you inspired to join the Celebration Challenge?

Some Inspiration…
CelebrationTour_CelebratingCivilRights_061615

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, she courageously 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.

Share your library adventure:
Email me, or connect on facebook, or any of the #censored2celebrated social media spots.

Flag waving & Songs of Celebration for you!

Flag waving & Songs of Celebration for you!

Hey…before you go off and do your celebration dance, would you do me a favor?
I would be honored if you would help me share the celebration by clicking on the social share buttons on this page. 

We appreciate all who are able to celebrate DSG with publicly. We also celebrate all who celebrate DSG privately.

Remember: All celebration is powerful. All celebration can change the conversation, our communities, and the world.

In celebration!
Melita, Tulip, Azalea Javi

"What one reads becomes a part of what one sees and feels." Ralph Ellison #CelebrationTour

“What one reads becomes a part of what one sees and feels.” Ralph Ellison


Would you like to keep up with
our celebrations throughout the year? 

Sign-up for our Email List here.


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Day 9: Call Me Tree – Llámame arbol

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DAY 9
Call Me Tree – Llámame arbol
by Maya Christina Gonzalez


With gratitude to Susie Hayes for 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


 Day9_CallMeTree_Censored2Celebrated_June15_YouTube


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.”)

Celebrating in Philly
This flurry of conversation about transgender matters has merged with my own experience as I witness friends and colleagues enjoying their time at the Philly Trans Health Conference. In the ever-expanding trans conference circuit – 20+ conferences planned as of January 2015! –  the 14th annual #PTHC2015 conference was attended by over 3,000 people from around the globe.

It was celebrated with the Transgender flag flying proudly at City Hall, and just wrapped up on June 6th. As quoted in The AdvocateNellie Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia’s director of LGBT affairs says:

“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.”

Enough about Hashtags & Trans Flags…What About Books?!
Yesterday, on June 6th – are you seeing a pattern yet?! – the New York Times noted something I’ve been witnessing as I prepare for the Celebration Tour. There seems to be a celebratory explosion of wonderful books being written by and for transgender kids and young adults.

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 sentiment when she reviewed the book I Am Jazz, co-authored by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

Laverne Cox on "I Am Jazz"

Arin Andrews, 19 year old author of Some Assembly Required, makes a similar point in The New York Times article:

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 / Llámame árbol
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


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

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.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

 

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Day 5: The Book of Lost Things

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DAY 5: May 19th
The Book of Lost Things
by John Connolly


With gratitude to Caleb Matthews for donating this book. We are looking forward to listening to this as an audio book on the Celebration Tour!

Caleb says:
“I read this book when I was 12 or 13. It is the first book that
I had ever read where a character
was gay and a moral beacon for the main character.”


Day5_The Book of Lost Things_Censored2Celebrated_May15_YouTube

Book Review: The Independent
The Book of Lost Things

As suggested by the title, The Book of Lost Things is a novel that contains itself.

The Hitchcock-style plot “MacGuffin” is the search for a scrapbook called “The Book of Lost Things” owned by the king of a magical land. But late in the day we are told that the book we are holding is also part of the plot, purportedly authored not by thriller writer John Connolly but by the grown-up version of David, the 12-year-old who seems to be the hero of the third-person narrative. It’s a tricksy approach, but then again this is a book with a trickster for a villain: the Crooked Man, who is also Rumplestiltskin of the fairy tale. The novel plays any number of games with stories famous and forgotten.

Caleb Matthews gifted this YA book. Here he talks about how it connects with Diverse Sexuality & Gender:


Caleb’s Favorite Quote
For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

  • Do you have a favorite book that celebrates the Diversity of Sexuality & Gender?
  • Have you read the The Book of Lost Things?

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.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Tulip Lavender has been loving this book since she was 3

Day 4: It’s Not the Stork

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DAY 4: May 18th
It’s Not the Stork
by Robie H. Harris (author) & Michael Emberley (illustrator)


With gratitude to Denise Wakeman for donating this book. It has been a life changing book for many – including my own daughters!

Denise writes:
“I’m behind you 100% +Melita Noël Cantú.
Love what you’re doing and look forward to experiencing your journey with you, via blog, photos and video!”


It's Not the Stork

Day 4: It’s Not the Stork

It’s Not the Stork is the first in a trilogy for youth, ages 4, 7 and 10. These books are often used to support the Our Wholes Lives (aka “OWL”) curriculum at UU and UCC churches in the US. I was a student in an early version of this curriculum as a 6th grader. As an adult, I have been trained in the revised curriculum, and have coordinated programs for middle and high school youth in Austin with this curriculum. All of the students in these classes, and my own children have read one or more of this trilogy of books.

While I have noticed some middle school youth express some embarrassment about reading the books, I also noticed that they all came back with questions and insights. Additionally, I clearly remember how so many of the youth – ranging in age from 3 to 17 – all  specifically liked the bird bee characters that flit and buzz throughout each of the books.

Yes, someone has actually made books about “the birds and the bees” fun – and apparently not too corny – for kids and teens. Additionally, this trilogy is a big relief for parents who want a comprehensive book to share with their kids – either for reading together or separately.

Check out this video clip where author Robie Harris is interviewed by a mother of 3 sons:

“If anyone gets upset [about the images],
it’s the adults, not the kids.”
-Robie Harris
(on Michael Emberley’s anatomically specific illustrations)


My Favorite Quote
Bird and Bee Go to the Zoo
Bird: I think I know where babies come from! Maybe the mommy swallows a watermelon seed and it grows so big it grows into a baby!
Bee: It does???
Bird: Or maybe the daddy types on the computer “Send a baby!” And that’s where babies come from.
Bird: Or maybe the stork drops the baby down the chimney and the mommy or daddy catches it.
Bee: Babies DON’T come from the stork do they?
Bird & Bee together: “So where do babies come from?”


Having the Talk Before They Can Talk
One of the reasons this book is often challenged and banned is that some people question if 4 years old is too young to talk with a child about sexuality and gender. I would argue that it’s never too early to start – especially to help the parents get comfortable with this important parenting topic!

Here, a guest From Censored to Celebrated, Remi Newman, MA, talks about some easy ways to approach early childhood sexuality education by Having the Talk Before They Can Talk.

In Parenting Tip #2, Remi suggests:
“Start early when they are babies to increase your
c
omfort level with the topic.
Make it an ongoing conversation.”

Remi Newman Parenting Tip 2- Start Early

Click here for all 5 of Remi’s Parenting Tips.


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

  • Do you have a favorite book that celebrates the Diversity of Sexuality & Gender?
  • Have you read the It’s Not the Stork?
  • Why do you think it’s been challenged so often?

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 a-book-a-day blog.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Day 3: And Tango Makes Three

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DAY 3: May 17th
And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell & Henry Cole


With gratitude to Amy Pittel for donating this book that has allowed  so many individuals, libraries, and communities to move From Censored to Celebrated!

Amy writes:
“I’m thrilled to be able to help bring stories like these to kids who so need to find characters with whom they can identify.”


Day3_Tango_Tulip Lavender_Censored2Celebrated_YouTube

Three is a powerful number in this book due to baby penguin, Tango, born to Roy and Silo, a family of male penguins, at Central Park in New York City.  According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), in 2014 it was also third on the list for attempting bans in communities across the USA. And it is my pleasure to celebrate And Tango Makes Three on Day 3 of our #aBookaDay preparations for the Celebration Tour in June.

I have to admit that I was surprised when I realized the extent that Tango had been censored, not just in its early years, but even through 2014. The reasons given for challenging it are listed as follows: “Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group….and promotes the homosexual agenda.” For these reasons, “Tango ranked as ALA’s most frequently challenged book for a record four years in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010.” Check out this timeline from the American Library Association for a visual history of banned books in the US.

As I mentioned, my family and I read this book without realizing thow much it has been banned over the past 9 years. Given that my daughter, Tulip, was born in 2008, and that she has a mother with a Master’s Degree in Sexuality Studies, it is not surprising that she didn’t find this book to be controversial or unusual. We both loved it, and had a great chat about it here.


While Tango engaged both my 6 year old and 16 month old, it also had the added benefit of finally helping us name our very large penguin – a much beloved and bemusing gift from Grandpa. (Our family penguin is now, yes, “Tango Lavender.”)

Tango also allowed us to further explore how families can grow and thrive when they have a safe environment where their strengths, innovations, and connections are recognized, and, yes, celebrated.

My Favorite Quote
Out came their very own baby! She had fuzzy white feathers and a funny black beak. Now, Roy and Silo were fathers. “We’ll call her Tango,” Mr. Gramzay decided, “because it takes two to make a Tango.” 


Many people have read this book on video. Here Tango is engagingly read by staff at Seattle’s Sanislo Elementary School during Banned Book Week: 

Here’s a fun, more adult video clip with staff and visitors to the Central Park Zoo about how Roy and Silo became a committed couple, and had baby Tango.

Finally, I appreciate the sentiment shared on this version of the video
“Everyone should have the right to see themselves & their families in the books they read.”


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

  • Do you have a favorite book that celebrates diversity?
  • Have you read the And Tango Makes Three?
  • Why do you think it’s been challenged so often?

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 a-book-a-day blog.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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