Tag Archives: Austin

Restroom sign_PeeInPeace__Censored2Celebrated

What is a Gender Nonspecific Sign?

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What is a Gender Nonspecific Sign?
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.

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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: How many genders are there?
Answer: 56 genders are recognized by Facebook.
Beyond social media, the Centers for Disease Control and the US Census Bureau recognize that there are multiple genders. This is also true in countries like India.

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! 

This IS a gender nonspecific sign_PeeInPeace__Censored2Celebrated
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.

Their top-selling All Gender Restroom signs are:

  1. All Gender Restroom sign with toilet (+Braille)
  2. All Gender Restroom sign with toilet and wheelchair (+Braille)
  3. All Gender Restroom sign with no image (+Braille)
  4. All Gender Restroom sign with toilet (Round California style)All Gender Restroom sign (SmartSign)

As one of our sponsors, SmartSign has partnered with Censored2Celebrated to offer a discount on such signs. They have lots of options beyond these four, so check them out!

SmartSigns is making us signs that look like this – and are offered as PERKS when you sponsor our #PeeInPeace initiative! 

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How do I get inclusive signs like this that make it safe for ALL of us to #PeeInPeace?

We’re so glad you asked! 

  • Sponsor us and get a sign as one of your perks!

  • Email Katelyn at katelyn (at) smartsign.com for a discount on any inclusive signs you’d like to order directly.

Click here (or the image below) to learn more about how we’re changing the world, one restroom sign at a time.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Day 10: 10,000 Dresses

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DAY 10
10,000 Dresses
Story by Marcus Ewert
Illustrations by Rex Ray

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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 here if 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!”


Book Review: School Library Journal
10,000 Dresses

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 PrincessElena’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.

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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Songs for Celebration

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Dreaming My Garden – The World I Want to Live In
I was driving home from a meeting last night at Wildflower Church about a scholarship for High School Seniors who are Dreamers – youth whose families brought them to the USA as children. It was a challenging meeting as we were making the hard choice about who the scholarship recipients would be for the 4th annual Dream Sabbath. It was also a rewarding meeting as we will be able to offer – and celebrate – two tenacious and brave students with funding assistance for college. I am proud to be part of a faith community that supports the – often underserved – community in this way.

As the cherry on top of a great night, I got the pleasure of  having 30 minutes of singing and dancing in the car – all by myself.  Much as I love my kids, and I love singing with my kids in the car, it is a rare pleasure to be all my myself in the dark of night – just me, the car, and the music rolling along at high volume.

These experiences at Wildflower Church, and alone in my car, showed me that this is the kind of world I want to live in. A world where we can support each other to achieve our dreams of something better. A world where we can bring change through the celebrations that make our heart sing – just like the Celebration Tour that I am about to embark on with my family this summer.

Singing & Driving
As is often the case, last night in the car, I had one of my favorite CD mixes on, turned up very loudly, and was singing at the top of my lungs. Some people sing in the shower, but in my family we’re car singers and steering wheel dancers. I learned the fine art of creating music mixes for traveling from my Dad. In my childhood, we still played 90 minute tapes in the car, and those cassettes are the treasured soundtrack of my childhood. It is clear to me that music has shaped every aspect of who I am, and how I grow my personal and professional garden.

Songs In My Garden
As a child, these songs – from Broadway to Folk to Jazz Standards to Motown – shaped my ideas about life – including what it means to explore and celebrate sexuality and gender. I remember wondering about what really makes a Natural Woman. (Sung here by a whole bevy of divas including Aretha Franklin and songwriter Carole King.)

I also remember my 3 year old sister questioning if Tracy Chapman was actually a man because of her deep voice, and her name. When I told her that, as far as I knew, Tracy was a woman, she firmly declared that her name should actually be Tracy Chap(wo)man. I remember listening to Tracy’s debut album over and over on a family trip to the Grand Canyon. Her song Baby Can I Hold You made me wonder about domestic violence, and why people hurt one another in “love” relationships. Her song, Talking’ Bout a Revolution, inspired so many of us coming of age in the 1980s.

Songs for Celebration
These days, I make CD mixes for the car, and playlists on my various devices for everywhere else. With our upcoming Celebration Tour, my girls, partner, and I have started dreaming about our music mix for the big adventure from Austin to Montreal, and back again.

#ItGetsAwesome #CelebrationStories #DSGI started putting the Celebration Tour #ItGetsAwesome playlist together this week on YouTube. As you can see, they won’t all fit on one CD, so this year we will have to make a few volumes of Songs for Celebration for the road!

Yesterday, I was working with JCruz, who is the talent behind all the video editing at From Censored to CelebratedAs a recent graduate from high school here in Austin, TX, J. had

some – shall we say – more updated suggestions for songs and artists to add to the playlist. I am now a big fan of Yuna. If you haven’t heard her sing, I highly suggest you listen to Live Your Life, which is on the playlist. What songs should we add to the Songs of Celebration?

Ping me here if you’d like to offer a suggestion.

Seeds of Change
While conversations with my guests on the #Censored2Celebrated webcast constantly spark celebrations, I am in awe of how powerful music can be as a force for celebration and change. Music can inspire us Convervations Spark Celebrations Videoto stay awake during a long car trip, improve our mood – this video of my daughter’s school performing Happy works every time for me, celebrate the birth of a child, or mobilize us to march for social justice.

For instance, the song I Know Where I’ve Been, a civil rights anthem sung by Queen Latifah in the movie Hairspray, has been recently performed on Glee featuring the gender-expansive character, Unique, supported by a choir comprised of 200+ transgender singers.

The UK’s Independent notes that “Many of the choristers admitted that they had never met so many other trans people in one place before.”  I can only imagine how life-changing that was for everyone in the room – transgender and cisgender people alike!

Alex Newell (aka Unique on Glee) also performs the song live with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus at Jordan Hall. This performance has a special place in my heart as I had the pleasure to perform at Jordan Hall as a high school student in the New England Conservatory’s Youth Chorale.

The connection between the music of civil rights from the 1960s and music celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG) is not a surprise. Berniece Johnson Reagon, Civil Rights activist, historian, and the founder of inspiring musical group Sweet Honey in the Rocksays: “To this day, I don’t understand how people think they can bring anybody together without a song.”  Does this ring true for you?

What songs are in your Garden for Celebration and Change?
What music has made a difference in your life? What songs would you put on a playlist Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender?

Connect with me here to talk about music, DSG and/or offer your suggestions to the Songs for Celebration playlist.

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JOIN US IN CELEBRATION!

Support the Celebration Tour of Diverse Sexuality & Gender

  1. Purchase a book (or more!) before June 8, 2015 to donate to a public library.
    Here’s our Censored2Celebrated Wish List.
  2. 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. (Any level of support helps – $3, $7 or $18 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    $18.00 USD
  • Number of…US states with legalized same-sex marriage    $37.00 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

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Until we meet again…

Celebrate all the people in your life. Every bit of celebration helps #ItGetAwesome.

In celebration,

Melita

Celebrate All the People in Your Life_c2c

 

What is the Celebration Tour?
Sexuality Educator & Webcaster, Melita Noël Cantú, and her family will embark on a Celebration Tour for two months this summer. They will seek out – and share – great books Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG). During their visits with librarians in public libraries in the US and in eastern Canada, they will gift a book celebrating themes of DSG. The more books that are donated to the Celebration Tour, the more books they will gift to libraries!

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Ping Melita with any recommendations for us to dance and sing along to on our car trip from Austin to Montreal. We will be finalizing the playlist by June 8th.

 

 

 

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