Is it really that easy to join the Celebration Challenge?
Yes. Let me break it down.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They know how precious books are.
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 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.
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.
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 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?
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?
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.
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 of you who are able to celebrate DSG with us publicly. We also celebrate all of who celebrate DSG privately. All celebration is powerful. All celebration can change the conversation, our communities, and the world.
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